Capital Clicks

Iowa Senate passes higher penalties for stalkers who use GPS to track victims

By: - March 14, 2023 4:31 pm

Stalking using a technological devices such as GPS on a cellphone would be a Class C felony under legislation that passed the Iowa Senate. (Stock photo via Canva)

The Iowa Senate unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that would raise criminal penalties on people convicted of stalking using a technological device. The move comes amid a high-profile stalking case involving two Des Moines bar owners.

Senate File 201 would increase penalties for stalking if a person uses a technological device, like a computer or phone, to commit the offense. Two Des Moines bar owners, Steven McFadden, owner of Des Moines bars including the Tipsy Crow and Grumpy Goat, and Edwin Allen III, owner of Zora Bar & Rooftop, were charged in January with using a global positioning system tracking device to stalk a woman.

McFadden was arrested again Friday on allegations he contacted his ex-girlfriend in violation of a no-contact order.

Sen. Liz Bennett, D-Cedar Rapids, said people who commit such crimes are often repeat offenders.

“One of these guys gets arrested, gets charged with it, gets out and does it again,” Bennett said. “So that just shows the cavalier attitude that many of the people who perpetrate this crime display.”

The proposal would make stalking using technology a Class “C” felony. While current law has different charges based on whether the person has been charged with stalking previously, the bill’s proposal would not differentiate charges for people who committed their first or subsequent offenses using technology.

The bill also increases other stalking penalties from Class “D” to Class “C” felony charges, if the stalking is in violation of a protective order, if the person is targeting a minor, or if it’s committed while the person is in possession of a weapon.

Sen. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, said he supported raising the penalties on stalkers, but that lawmakers need to give the justice system more funding to meet the increased burden. The Legislative Services Agency found Iowa’s correctional system would have a $976,000 increase in costs through the enhanced penalties.

“That’s fine,” Taylor said. “I’m just going to bring that up now and then ask you to remember that I brought this up when we talk about the the justice systems budget.”

Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-LeClaire, the bill’s floor manager, said the increased cost will be discussed when lawmakers discuss the state budget.

“This is an important modernization of current code to make sure that we are including the use of technological devices when it comes to the offense of stalking,” Cournoyer said. “There is a fiscal impact to the bill, but I think it’s a very serious crime and it’s an egregious offence and we need to treat it as such.”

The bill moves to the House for further consideration.

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Robin Opsahl
Robin Opsahl

Robin Opsahl is an Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter covering the state Legislature and politics. They have experience covering government, elections and more at media organizations including Roll Call, the Sacramento Bee and the Wausau Daily Herald.