Iowa Criminal Defense Lawyer - Have You Been Arrested?
What will an Iowa criminal lawyer in Polk County do for me?
During a criminal investigation, your lawyer can work to preserve evidence, find and interview witnesses, and start preparing for trial. The more work your lawyer can get done during a criminal investigation before your arrest, the more reasonable it might ultimately be to demand your right to a speedy trial.
After your arrest, a criminal defense law firm can evaluate the facts of your case, help you negotiate a plea deal, and prepare your case for trial. Your Des Moines, IA criminal lawyer will offer you legal advice.
Your Iowa criminal defense attorney will counsel you on your chances at trial and help you navigate the plea bargaining process. Ultimately, your defense attorney is responsible for providing you with a clear, honest look at your options so that you can make an informed decision about whether to proceed at trial. If you do proceed to trial, your Iowa lawyer will make decisions about the best trial strategy options for you.
Most people charged with crimes in Iowa choose to take plea options rather than proceeding to trial. This is often too bad, because in many cases, plea options involve sentencing options that aren’t necessarily any better than what a judge would be likely to sentence you to after conviction at trial. For some people, accepting a plea bargain represents giving up an opportunity for acquittal. Defendants who are acquitted face lower court costs, jail costs, etc. than defendants who are convicted or who plead guilty in exchange for a plea bargain.
Your Iowa criminal lawyer will discuss your options with you so that you understand the costs and benefits of going to trial or of giving up your right to trial. Accepting a plea deal can prevent you from appealing your case. Your lawyer will talk to you about this.
If you hope to have your misdemeanor charges dismissed, an Iowa criminal defense lawyer can investigate the evidence and research possible defenses that might convince the State to drop the charges.
If dismissal isn’t an option, your Iowa criminal law firm will prepare for trial. Getting ready for effective trial advocacy is time-consuming. It would take even longer for someone who isn’t familiar with Iowa criminal defense and rules of criminal procedure.
How do I choose a lawyer?
For your best chances of avoiding a criminal conviction in Iowa, you need the best Iowa criminal defense lawyer that’s available to you. The best criminal defense attorney in Des Moines, Iowa for you will depend on a lot of factors.
You need to find someone you can form a trusting attorney-client relationship with. If you aren’t comfortable talking to someone or if you and your lawyer feel like you’re constantly frustrated with each other, you might not have the right fit.
Next, you need to look for someone who is either familiar with your charges or who is prepared to become familiar with your charges.
Rules are an important part of law – after all, being accused of a crime is being accused of breaking the rules of law. When you’re looking for the best criminal defense lawyer in Iowa for you, evaluate whether the criminal attorneys you’re talking to are familiar with the Iowa criminal rules and the Iowa sentencing rules for the misdemeanor or felony criminal offense charged in your case.
What role do officers and prosecutors play?
The police and prosecuting attorneys are public servants, but that doesn’t mean that they’re there to protect your interests. The police will prepare reports. The prosecuting attorney will evaluate the police reports and determine what sort of criminal offense they want to accuse you of.
Who else can help me with my case?
Depending on the facts of your case, your Iowa criminal defense lawyer or defense law firm might have a team to help you that includes private investigators and expert witnesses.
Expert witnesses are people who can testify at your case. Unlike regular witnesses (“lay witnesses,”) experts can offer opinion testimony.
What is criminal defense trial narrative?
Jurors are people and people understand narrative. “Narrative” is “story.”
I’ve fairly recently come to the conclusion that criminal law is competitive story-telling. The facts of a case are static. (That means that they don’t change.) The interpretation is up in the air.
The prosecutor will tell the jurors a story. In their story, you are the bad guy. You did a crime, the State will say, because you felt something or because you wanted something. In their story, the government is the good guy, and the jury gets to be the good guy too, because they get to punish the bad guy and right a wrong.
We can respond one of two ways: either we can tell the jury a different story or we can show the jury what is wrong with the prosecution’s story.
The best defense we can offer involves telling the jury a different story than the story the prosecution tells. We will use the same facts that the State uses, but we will put them in a different light.
In our story, you are not the bad guy. You might be the hero or you might not be – depending on the facts, you might even be a bad guy, just not the bad guy that the State says you are – but the bottom line is that we will explain to them how the evidence leads to a very different conclusion than the one the State has offered them.
Take, for instance, the robbery of the Monopoly Money Bank and the horse-homicide of famed racehorse Khartoum. The prosecutor could call show video of you sitting in a car near the bank near the time of the incident. They could show crime scene photos of your car filled with board game cash and with a painted horse head. They could call police officers who would testify that you were read your rights and that you confessed to stealing the money and decapitating the horse. They might even bring in evidence of a motive – they could show evidence that you had financial need for a pile of brightly-colored paper money. They could show that you’d posted on Facebook about how you thought Khartoum was the dumbest horse and should be gone forever.
The prosecution’s story, then, would be that you, a man who needed board game cash and who had an unusual loathing for particular ponies, had robbed a board game bank and decapitated that horse from the Godfather in order to achieve financial solvency. How do we know you were the one who did the crime? You had the evidence with you and you confessed!
In answer to the prosecution’s story, we would need to come up with our own story that encompassed the same evidence – why is it that you would have been sitting in your car near the bank, that you would have had all that evidence, and that you would have confessed if you didn’t do it?
Jurors might initially resist the idea of, for example, false confessions – until you tell them a story that makes them understand why someone might confess to a crime that they didn’t do. You can’t lie to a jury or to the court (and neither can I.) What we can do is create a framework for understanding, and when we give them a story that they can understand, we’ve given them a way to (hopefully) get to reasonable doubt and return a “Not Guilty” verdict so that you can go home.
Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In its simplest form, a story goes like this: you, our protagonist, were living your life. You were doing the things you usually do. Then, something happened.
This “inciting incident” could be a number of things, depending on the details of your case. It could be that someone showed up at your door at midnight with a trenchcoat and a beard and offered you a choice – “drive that car downtown,” this creepy nighttime stranger might have told you, “and wait there. If you leave, if you call anyone, if you do anything other than what I tell you, I will push this button on my phone and an anvil will be launched off of a skyscraper and onto your beloved family member.”
After that, something else happened that ensured that your life would never be the same. You grabbed your keys and got behind the wheel, maybe. You drove downtown. You waited, your breath fogging the windows, your mind racing – until you heard someone pop the trunk of your car. You saw someone in the rearview window but were afraid to turn around. You didn’t want to know. You just wanted to go home.
The back door opened and someone got in – three someones, you think. They told you to drive and you did. They told you to stop and you did. Suddenly, red and blue lights whoop-whooped you into a near heart attack. Your passengers ditched – you are responsible for this, the fleeing felons told you, and you better not say anything else.
So the police found a trunk full of monopoly money and the head of Khartoum and you confessed. You didn’t confess because you did it, you confessed because you felt like you had to say that you did the crime or else a scary bearded man in a trenchcoat would push a button on this phone to send an anvil hurtling off a tall building onto your beloved family member.
Now, finally, this story has almost ended – and it’s their job, as jurors, to see that justice is done and that you aren’t punished for a crime that you didn’t actually commit.
How do the jurors know that your story is true? Maybe we have evidence like a trenchcoat covered in beard hairs that was found in a ditch three blocks down from where the police picked you up. Maybe trenchcoat man was caught pulling the same shenanigans with someone else a week later. Maybe we hired an investigator, who found an anvil on a phone-app-activated springboard on the top of a tall building. Maybe all we have is your testimony, which counts as evidence too.
Every narrative involves characters who have wants and needs and goals. If we can explain your case to a jury in a way that lets them understand why a witness might lie about you, how a witness’s memory about what happened might have been influenced, or why you would confess to a crime that you didn’t commit, the jury will be better able to understand our story. The better the jury understands your story (and the more believable it is,) the better your chances are of going home.
In constructing stories, I like to consider their strongest evidence and evaluate ways that their evidence against you could actually benefit you.
If there isn’t a strong alternative story that we can tell the jury, either because we don’t have the witnesses and evidence available to support our story or because you aren’t comfortable testifying for any reason, we can focus instead on micro-narratives – we can point out holes in the State’s evidence and suggest possible alternative ways to interpret individual pieces of evidence. If the evidence doesn’t provide us with a story to offer that counters the State’s narrative, we can, at least, insist that the government carry its burden – the prosecuting attorney has to prove you (1) guilty (2) beyond a reasonable doubt (3) of each and every element of an offense. They have to overcome your constitutionally-guarded presumption of innocence, and if they don’t, you have a right to a Not Guilty verdict, even if we don’t have a story to prove you innocent.
To sum it up, your Iowa criminal defense attorney will help you try to build your own story that the jury likes better than the government’s story. Failing that, they will help by pointing out flaws in the government’s story.
What happens before trial?
Preparing for trial can be complicated. Depending on the type of offense you’re charged with, it can take a lot of time. Many sections of the Iowa Code may be implicated, and some sections interact in ways that could invite or negate sentencing enhancements or charging enhancements.
Preparing for trial alone isn’t an option for most people.
Before your criminal trial, your Iowa criminal lawyer will review your case. She or he will figure out what evidence exists. Your Iowa criminal defense attorney will make determinations about what evidence supports the government’s story and what evidence supports your story.
What will happen at trial?
Most trials in Iowa are jury trials.
The first step in a jury trial is voir dire. At voir dire, we ask potential jurors a bunch of questions and then gently send some of them home.
For a simple misdemeanor, you have to request a jury trial within 10 days of entering a plea of guilty. If you don’t make that request in time, you will have a bench trial. A bench trial is a criminal defense trial that is in front of a judge instead of a jury. If you don’t make that jury request in time, you will have a bench trial.
After voir dire (if a jury is involved), your trial starts.
The burden is on the State to prove you guilty of every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt. You have a constitutional right to be presumed innocent. The presumption of innocence remains with you throughout the trial, unless and until the government convinces the fact finder (that means the judge or jury) of your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The State goes first at trial.
The prosecuting attorney will make an opening statement. After that, your Iowa criminal attorney will make an opening statement on your behalf.
After opening statements, the prosecutor will call one or more witnesses. The prosecuting attorney will ask those witnesses questions. This is called direct examination.
After the prosecutor has finished asking a witness questions, it’s the Polk County, Iowa defense lawyer’s turn to ask questions to that same witness. This is called cross-examination.
After the prosecuting attorney is done calling witnesses, your criminal defense attorney in Iowa will call any defense witnesses. Sometimes, the defense will call the same witnesses that the State called. The reason for this is that during cross-examination, your defense attorney Des Moines Iowa was limited in what they could ask the witness. They weren’t allowed to ask questions that were “beyond the scope” of what the State asked during direct examination.
As a criminal defendant, you have a right to testify on your own behalf. You also have the right not to testify. This is the “right against self-incrimination.” Your criminal lawyer will offer you legal counsel or legal advice on whether you should choose to testify or not. Ultimately, though, that choice will be yours to make.
Both the prosecution and the Iowa lawyer representing you will be able to introduce exhibits, which are evidence. The prosecutor and the Ankeny criminal defense lawyer representing you will “lay the foundation” for introducing the evidence through a witness. After that, they will mark the exhibit if it hasn’t already been marked. The lawyer will formally offer the marked exhibit into evidence.
The government lawyer can object to evidence for a number of reasons, including that the evidence hasn’t had a proper foundation established. Your criminal lawyer Iowa can make objections too. When someone makes objections, the Court will either sustain or overrule the objection. That means that the judge will either agree with the objecting lawyer that the evidence shouldn’t come in or they will overrule the objection and let the exhibit come into evidence anyway.
After all of the witnesses have been questioned and after all of the evidence has been offered, the State will make its closing argument. Your Iowa criminal attorney will make her closing argument. The prosecutor might be allowed a moment for rebuttal.
After that, the judge will read the jury instructions to the jurors.
The jury will consider the evidence in your case and the instructions. They might do this very quickly or they could take hours or days. Finally, though, they will return a verdict.
If the jury finds you Not Guilty, it’s all over. Congratulations, you’re done!
If the jury finds you Guilty, then we proceed to the sentencing phase of the Iowa criminal process. Sometimes, defendants seek immediate sentencing after they are found guilty. More often, they will ask to “set sentencing out.” The Court will set a date for sentencing.
Before sentencing, the judge might decide that a pretrial investigation needs to be done. If so, a pretrial investigation report will be filed with the court before sentencing.
At sentencing, the government lawyer will argue for why they think a certain punishment is appropriate. Your defense lawyer will argue on your behalf for a punishment that’s more in line with your goals
What about the death penalty?
We don’t take murder cases, and even if we did, the death penalty doesn’t exist in Iowa. There’s no reason to ask about the death penalty.
Do you handle federal criminal defense?
No, we do not represent defendants charged with federal defenses right now. Federal prosecutors and federal sentencing are different from Iowa prosecutors and Iowa sentencing.
If you’re seeking criminal defense legal counsel for federal crimes, I can offer you a referral to other attorneys who practice federal criminal law. If you really want me to represent you in your federal criminal case, I would consider looking into getting admitted to federal criminal practice, depending on the type of case. It’s not something I currently do, though.
Controlled substance offenses are taken seriously. Misdemeanor or felony drug possession could result in jail time and could stay on your criminal record for life. If the government accuses you of having drugs, you need an Iowa criminal defense lawyer.
Drug arrests are super common and Iowa has some of the most draconian drug laws in the country. While other states are moving toward acceptance of previously-illicit substances as valid medicinal and/or recreational options, Iowa will still mar your record, take your money, and lock you up. If you’re facing Iowa drug charges for marijuana, methamphetamine, or cocaine, find an Iowa drug lawyer right away.
An Iowa drug possession lawyer in Des Moines might be able to save you from paying thousands in fines and spending time locked up away from your family.
Drunk driving in Iowa is called an OWI. In other states, this may be called DUI or DWI. It’s one of the most common charges in Iowa. You need an Iowa criminal defense lawyer if you’re accused of drinking and driving.
Drunk driving DWI charges can result in huge fines and jail time that you might have avoided if you had an Iowa criminal defense lawyer evaluate things and determine the best course of action in your case.
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For the State to find you guilty of domestic abuse assault, they have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- Were in a domestic relationship and
- Committed an assault.
An Iowa domestic assault attorney in Des Moines might be able to save you from paying thousands in fines and spending time locked up away from your family.
If s/he consented but the jury doesn’t believe you, you’re in a whole lot of trouble. You need an Iowa criminal defense lawyer.
Sexual abuse allegations can wreck your life and keep you from ever having a loving relationship or a stable job again. If someone is claiming you violated their boundaries, you need an Iowa rape lawyer.
An Iowa sex crimes lawyer in Des Moines might be able to save you from paying thousands in fines and spending time locked up away from your family.
If the cash register comes up light or your neighbor is suddenly missing their expensive remote-controlled Christmas light display, you need an Iowa criminal defense lawyer.
Accusations of property crime could lead to large fines, jail time, restitution payments, and employment problems. Employers won’t trust you around money or things of value. Banks might not trust you with loans. You can’t afford to be seen as a thief — not if there’s any way to clear your name.
An Iowa theft attorney in Des Moines might be able to save you from paying thousands in fines and spending time locked up away from your family.
White Collar Crimes
If you’re accused of fraud or other financial crimes, you need help from an Iowa criminal defense lawyer.
An Iowa white-collar crimes attorney in Des Moines might be able to save you from paying thousands in fines and spending time locked up away from your family.
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