Just Arrested in Des Moines?
What is an arrest in Iowa and what should you do when you've been arrested?
You probably think you know what an "arrest" is, but determining exactly when someone was arrested is often argued about in criminal proceedings. There isn't a bright-line test to determine whether someone has been arrested. There's no one thing you can look at that tells you, you know, yep, that guy's arrested!
Depending on when you're arrested and what you're told, searches the police perform and admissions you make may end up being inadmissible. Inadmissible evidence can't be used against you at trial. When important evidence gets "suppressed," your chances of getting your case dismissed improve.
Arguing details about an arrest is something for later, though. If you've just gotten a call from your friend, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or child who's in custody, you need to know what to do now.
1. Tell them not to discuss their charges on the phone.
Calls from the jail are recorded. Anything they tell you could later be used against them. It's normal to want to know what happened, but it's important for them that they not talk about it.
2. Tell your friend or loved one that you'll call an attorney for them if that's what they ask you to do.
Ask if there's anyone in particular that they'd like you to call.
3. Tell them not to talk about their charges with anyone other than an attorney.
Not with you, not with the other people at the jail, and definitely not with the police.
4. Let them know that they can call you back in a while.
Be prepared, when they call you back, to tell them what you've found out about an attorney and about bail. You may not be able to call your friend or loved one at the jail and will have to wait on their call. After their initial free phone call to you, their calls may be collect. Accepting their next call may require you to pay several dollars with a credit or debit card.
5. Call an attorney.
If they asked to talk to a specific person or firm, call that person or firm and let them know what's going on.
6. Stay calm.
Call the arresting agency or the place where your friend or loved one is being held and ask what the conditions of their release will be. This information won't be available right away.
8. Ask how much the bond is and what their policies for payment are.
In some circumstances, the court will require that bail or bond is paid before your loved one can get out of jail. For some charges, you can contract with a bail bondsman if you can't afford the full amount of bail. For still other charges, your friend will need to see a judge before they're eligible for bail, or they may not be eligible for bail at all.
9. Decide whether you're going to pay bail.
If your loved one wants bailed out and if you want to bail them out, your payment will have to conform to the jail's policies.
Depending on the jail's rules and on the terms the judge set, this could involve paying in person in cash or with a cashier's check or through a bail bondsman. If you need to pay bail in person, this is the part where you get to put on your sweatpants and traipse out to the jail to pay and then to wait...and wait...and wait the hour or three it might take the jail to return your arrested loved one to you.
What is Arrest?
Hundreds of people are arrested by law enforcement agencies and charged with a crime in Iowa every day. After arrest, a defendant might be released on their own recognizance, released with pretrial services, held in custody until they can pay a cash or surety bond, or some cases, such as probation violation cases, held without bail. A criminal investigation starts or continues, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s often clear when an arrest happens. When an officer sees someone and immediately executes an arrest warrant, an arrest may have happened as soon as the person was aware that the peace officer intended to detain them.
Other times, an officer may approach someone and have a conversation with them. It may become apparent that the police department suspects the person of a crime. The officer might detain the person while they ascertain whether they have probable cause to make an arrest. At some point, an officer might say “I’m putting you under arrest” or might simply handcuff a person and put them in the car.
Iowa arrest records show that someone has been arrested. The police narrative in a criminal complaint may mention when the officer subjectively thinks that someone has been arrested. Neither of these things are dispositive.
There is a lot of case law discussing exactly when someone is under arrest. The timing matters. Unwarned custodial statements can’t be used against a defendant in criminal proceedings. That’s why you might see people being read their Miranda rights on TV.
Unwarned statements made before arrest can still be admissible. If a defendant admits to a crime before being under arrest, that admission can be used as evidence against him. If he confesses to a crime after being arrested, that confession can be used as evidence against him – but only if he was aware of his rights. That middle window, where someone might make statements after arrest but before becoming aware of their rights, can cause evidentiary problems.
You are considered to be under arrest when a reasonable person would not feel free to leave. This seems fairly straightforward. After all, most people probably wouldn’t feel free to leave if a police officer approached them and started a conversation. Courts have held that that isn’t enough, though.
Your attorney can review the case law on arrests. If necessary, she or he can make an argument to the court about whether you were under arrest at the time you made certain statements.