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What is an infamous crime?

The criminal justice system contains many disincentives to commit a crime. There is the potential embarrassment with being arrested by the police, spending time in jail, obtaining bail, going through a trial or plea bargain, and if convicted, spending additional time in prison or on probation.

Some crimes carry additional disincentives, such as license suspension for a drunk driving charge or sex offender registration for those convicted of a sex crime. In Iowa, another disability for a conviction is the loss of the right to vote. The law states that anyone convicted of "any infamous crime" will no longer be able to vote.

Iowa has interpreted "any infamous crime" to be synonymous with a felony, and attorneys for a woman who was convicted of a drug crime have argued that the definition should be more narrowly tailored.

One attorney pointed out to the Iowa Supreme Court that disenfranchisement should be related to the underlying offense. He suggested crimes that potentially relate to the integrity of the election process, such as "treason, perjury, bribery of a public official, acceptance of bribes or corruption by a public official or embezzlement of public funds," would make more sense than simply defining all felonies as infamous.

The Court also heard arguments from the state officials who complained that allowing 99 counties to determine when to disallow voting would be an administrative nightmare. The Supreme Court could offer a more narrow definition, that could resolve much of that concern.

The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights of citizenship and creates one more obstacle to the reintegration to society of those who have served their time.

Source: thegazatte.com, "Iowa Supreme Court considers felon voting rights," Rod Boshart, March 30, 2016

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