The state of Iowa has enacted a new law that will prohibit counties from using private debt collectors to collect on unpaid court fees and victim restitution.
The law was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds last Friday. Previously, one private collection agency had been collecting on behalf of 30 counties which did not have their own local county attorney debt collection program. From here on, the Iowa Department of Revenue will be responsible for collecting on those debts.
Local officials praised the move, saying that more money will now go to crime victims instead of to the private collection agency.
“Sometimes we pass laws which fly under the radar because they do not affect a large number of people,” said Iowa Rep. Dustin Hite, who sponsored the legislation, on his Facebook page. “However, for the people that they do affect, the change is very real. Senate File 457 passed the Iowa House on a bipartisan basis and contained what I believe to be one of the most important thing we did this year. It eliminated an out of state debt collector for court debt and replaced it with the Department of Revenue. This eliminates the automatic 25% increase that was placed on unpaid fines which falls on many of our citizens who can least afford it, and it helps insure that victims will be compensated first. This is a change that can be celebrated by all parties to the criminal justice system.”
The new law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.
“While there is still work to be done to ensure crime victims are always paid first, and in full before any other fee is paid, this legislation is a momentous leap forward,” said Mahaska County Attorney Andrew Ritland in a statement. “In these divisive times, this is a victory all Iowans can celebrate.”