Des Moines Criminal Defense Lawyer for Riot

If you've been accused of participating in a violent or destructive assembly, whether in pursuit of long-awaited and millenia-overdue racial equality or because you were real mad that a sports team did or didn't win a game, you may find yourself charged with Riot, an aggravated misdemeanor in violation of Iowa Code Section 723.1. You should find a Des Moines riot lawyer.

Des Moines Riot Lawyers

Remember that in order to convict you, the prosecutors have to prove every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt — including the intent or “mens rea” element.

At Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, we defend the rights and liberties of good people who are accused of bad things. An Iowa riot lawyer might be able to find you a viable path to reasonable doubt, thus saving you from paying thousands in fines and restitution and spending time locked up away from your family.

Get out of trouble and get back to life. Call Clark and Sears Law, PLLC now at (515) 491 6128 to set up a free consultation. A receptionist is available 24/7 to take your call.

The criminal defense lawyers at Clark and Sears Law, PLLC, are based in the city of Des Moines and in Ankeny and represent defendants throughout Polk County and the rest of Iowa.

Iowa Riots

Iowa Code Chapter 723.1 governs Riot.

A Riot is:

  • Three or more persons
  • Assembled together in a violent manner
  • To the disturbance of others
  • And with any use of unlawful force of violence by them or any of them
  • Against another person or causing property damage.

Additionally, to be guilty of Riot, the State will have to prove:

  • That you willingly joined in or remained a part of a riot
  • That you knew or had reasonable grounds to believe it was a riot

The prosecution has to prove ALL of that. If there is even one part of a crime that the police and county attorney can't convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of, you must be found Not Guilty.

If all of your charges are dismissed or you are found "Not Guilty" of all your charges, the charges may be eligible for expungement 180 days later, keeping your publicly-visible record clean and clear.

Penalties for Riot in Iowa

Participating in a riot is an aggravated misdemeanor. If convicted, you could spend up to two years in prison and face fines of $625 - $6250 $855-$8540 plus surcharges. (Increased fines in effect as of July 15, 2020.)

There's a 35% criminal penalty surcharge that applies to all Iowa criminal fines.

After July 15, 2020, a 15% crime services surcharge applies to all criminal fines.

If you get a deferred judgment instead of a conviction, you will pay a civil penalty instead of a fine. Civil penalties in the same amounts as criminal fines — for instance, if you get a deferred judgment on a riot charge, you could get a civil penalty of $855 instead of getting a criminal fine for $855. There’s no additional 15% surcharge for civil penalties, so the $855 civil penalty would cost you $128.25 less than the $855 criminal fine would.

If you are placed on probation, there will be a $300 probation supervision fee.

You should expect to be ordered to pay restitution for any damages you cause.

The county attorney might ask for the judge to order you to perform community service hours. You may be required to pay a placement fee to be placed into a local community service program.

You need to talk to city of Des Moines riot attorneys if you’re facing criminal charges.


If you’re convicted of a crime causing injury or property damage in Iowa, you probably owe victim restitution.

The Court will establish a plan of restitution.

You probably already know that if you damage property (or injure someone) during a trespass, you will have to repay the person whose property you injured. You may be surprised to find out that you may also have to pay fines, civil penalties, and surcharges. Additionally, you may have to:

  • Reimburse the crime victim restitution program.
  • Contribute funds to a local anticrime organization that helped the police in your case.
  • Pay court costs and correctional fees.
  • Pay court-appointed attorney fees, including the expense of a public defender.
  • Perform public service or community service if you can’t reasonably pay all or part of the court costs

Your payments have to go to the victims’ restitution order first, before your payments count toward fines, penalties, surcharges, crime victime compensation program reimbursement, public agency reimbursement, court costs, correctional fees, court-appointed attorney fees, expenses of a public defender, or contributions to local anti-crime organizations.

If the court orders you to pay restitution, your victim may file a restitution lien. Even though your victim will be granted a right to victim restitution for what your crime cost them, that victim restitution doesn’t prevent them from being able to sue you for damages in a separate civil action.

Iowa Code 915.100

Iowa charges related to riot

There are riot-adjacent offenses that you might also be charged with. Depending on your circumstances, a prosecutor might offer a plea offer from riot to another related offense. Ask your Des Moines riot lawyer about the pros and cons of a plea offer.


Insurrection in violation of Iowa Code Section 718.1 is a Class C felony.

Insurrection is similar to riot but involves the purpose of interfering with, disrupting, or destroying state government or its subdivisions or preventing executive, legislative, or judicial officers from performing their lawful functions.

Disorderly conduct

Disorderly conduct is a simple misdemeanor.


Harassment is a misdemeanor offense. Depending on the details and severity, harassment can be a simple, serious, or aggravated misdemeanor.

Unlawful Assembly

Unlawful assembly, Iowa Code 723.2, is a simple misdemeanor.

Failure to Disperse

Failure to disperse, Iowa Code 723.3, is a simple misdemeanor.


Depending on the details, assault can be anywhere from a simple misdemeanor to a felony. Some forcible felonies are subject to a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence before possibility of parole.

Criminal Mischief

If you’re convicted of vandalism or "criminal mischief" in Iowa, you’re facing fines and/or jail time for an offense somewhere between a simple misdemeanor and a class C felony.


Trespass in Iowa ranges from a simple misdemeanor to a Class D felony and may be subject to certain enhancements, such as "hate crime."

Defenses to Participating in a Riot

The government's lawyer has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you're guilty of all statutory elements of Riot. If they can't do that, you get acquitted. If you're acquitted, you're not guilty. If you're not guilty, you go home.

Some possible riot defenses include:

Mistaken Identity

If your evil twin brother was the one at the riot, you shouldn't be convicted of his offense.


If you can prove that you were somewhere else, then you couldn't have committed the crime.

Statute of Limitations

With a few exceptions, Iowa law provides that there has to be an indictment or trial information charging you with a felony or a serious or aggravated misdemeanor within three years of the commission of the offense. (Iowa Code Section 802.3)

Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure

The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures. If your stolen property lawyer can show the court that you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the evidence in your case could get suppressed. If enough evidence gets suppressed, the charges get reduced or the charges get dismissed. If there's no proof of guilt, there's no tenable case against you.

Des Moines Riot Lawyers

Call an Iowa trespass defense attorney when you’re facing charges in the city of Des Moines Iowa or near the University of Iowa.

Des Moines riot lawyers can help ensure that your rights are respected when you’re accused of an offense in the greater Des Moines area.

polk county iowa criminal defense lawyers katie sears and john sears defense attorneys for riot in iowa

This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.  Reading this site doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship.  If you want to talk to us about your trespassing accusation in Iowa, please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk.

What will happen if I’m charged?

When someone alleges that you have trespassed, law enforcement will start an investigation.  Depending on whether they believe there is probable cause to charge you with Iowa riot, you could be taken to jail or given documents that say when your court date is.  After your arrest, you will be read your rights and given an opportunity to call a lawyer or a law firm.

You will be taken in front of the judge for an initial appearance.  The judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to ask a witness questions to establish whether probable cause exists to charge you with the offense.  At this hearing, the witness will be under oath. There are reasons that your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. You should consult with them before making a decision.

Your attorney will let you know when you will next have to appear in front of the court.  This may be for an arraignment or you may be able to submit a written arraignment.

The county attorney’s office will review the information provided to them by the police.  They will determine what offenses to charge you with. You could be charged with a misdemeanor or with a felony

Your attorney will let you know what the government is claiming you did, what your rights are, what the worst case scenario sentence could be, and how this could affect your criminal record. Your criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply.

Your law firm will give you legal advice on the pros and cons of taking your case to trial.  The decision of whether or not to go to trial is ultimately yours.

Finally, if you’re convicted, you might have reason and opportunity to appeal your conviction or sentence to the court of appeals or even to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Supreme Court might even say that there was a constitutional problem with the statute you were charged under.  Ask your criminal defense attorney for more information.

What should I know about lawyers generally?

Attorneys are people who completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees and then went on to attend a law school, such as Drake University Law School in Des Moines.  After completing law school, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam and are evaluated for character and fitness. Iowa lawyers are admitted to the Iowa state bar. The bar association regulates the legal profession.

Some lawyers and law firms do general practice, which means they accept all kind of representation.  Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. A lawyer might do only civil practice or only criminal defense.  Some lawyers get even more particular than that, practicing only (or primarily) in a narrow area, such as domestic violence, sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, family law, child custody, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, marijuana, DUI defense, controlled substance offenses, arson, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, drug offenses, traffic violations, violent crime or drunk driving. 

Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. All Iowa crimes are defined in the Iowa Code.  The Iowa rules of criminal procedure control what happens in Iowa criminal justice cases.

Federal court is different. If you are facing federal charges for a federal criminal offense, make sure to let your Iowa lawyer know that so that they can give you referrals to other attorneys, if necessary. Federal courts in Iowa are not the same things as state law courts in Iowa. Federal prosecutors and federal judges use different procedural rules. Federal crimes are subject to federal sentencing.

What offenses exist in Iowa criminal law?

Criminal law offenses are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Class A felonies exist, but most people facing felony charges are facing a class B felony, a class C felony, or a class D felony. If you have questions about Iowa riot laws, you should talk to a lawyer.

What can an Iowa criminal defense lawyer do for me?

If you’ve been accused, you need to be in contact with an attorney or law firm that works with Iowa criminal law.

If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your Iowa criminal defense attorney can help coordinate with law enforcement to coordinate a self-surrender that doesn’t result in potential embarrassment at work or while you’re home with your family.

Your Des Moines riot lawyer will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office and let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial.  Further, counsel can provide some guidance on whether it’s advisable in your position to consider a plea agreement or to go to trial. They will talk to you about whether a judge or jury is likely to find a particular witness credible.

Your criminal lawyer will let you know what sort of jail time you might be facing if convicted, how this will impact your criminal history, and how likely it is that you could get your charges dismissed.

Victim Resources

 Finally, there is a Victim Services Support Program available through the Iowa attorney general’s office.