We can help you figure out what to do about your Iowa criminal charges in Des Moines, Polk County, Ankeny, Ames, Johnston, West Des Moines, Waukee, Saylorville, Bondurant, Altoona, Clive, Grimes, Pleasant Hill, Story County, Boone County, Marshall County, Dallas County, Jasper County, Madison County, Warren County, Marion County, Wapello County, Davis County, Ottumwa, Bloomfield, Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and the rest of Iowa.
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 representing you when you’re facing Iowa criminal charges please contact us at (515) 491 6128 and we’ll set up a time to talk. Someone is available to take your message 24/7.
Crimes in Iowa are all statutorily defined. Every crime you could be accused of by the State of Iowa is listed somewhere in the Iowa Code.
Practicing Iowa criminal defense law means helping defendants find and apply the legal protections afforded to people who have been accused of committing Iowa crimes. Law enforcement agencies and government prosecutors are funded by tax-payers and have plenty of resources — after all, lots of politicians run on being “tough on crime.”
If there aren’t enough legal protections for accused citizens, we run the risk of becoming (more of a) police state.
It isn’t “just” that what outcome you get in the “criminal justice system” can be impacted at all by your choice of an attorney (or even by whether you have an Iowa criminal defense lawyer), but that’s the world we live in. As unfair as it is, getting treated fairly as a criminal defendant may depend as much on your defense attorney being able to argue your case as on the actual legal protections that are spelled out for you in the Code and in the constitution.
Your Iowa criminal defense attorney should work to leverage United States and Iowa constitutional protections to your advantage.
All criminal prosecutions depend on evidence collected by government, law enforcement, and prosecuting attorneys. This evidence, including physical evidence, statements by witnesses, alleged voluntary or involuntary confessions, drug tests, DUI breath tests, and so on must all be collected legally.
The Fourth Amendment of the United States constitution is incorporated to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. This means that any laws Iowa passes have to comply with the protections that the Fourth Amendment gives United States citizens — even though Iowa is enforcing Iowa criminal law and not federal law.
The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. The police have to have a warrant to search you or your property for evidence — or they have to rely on a valid, recognized exception to the warrant requirement.
Interpretation of the Fourth Amendment changes over time. Right now, for example, as I’m typing this, it is legal for a police officer to stop a car when the officer knows that the registered owner of the car does not have a valid driver’s license. They can legally have a “reasonable suspicion” that the car is being illegally driven, and that’s a basis for a stop. Under Iowa’s State v. Vance (2010) case law, this is okay.
Whether or not it is okay for Iowa police to rely on that knowledge as “reasonable suspicion” justifying a stop is being reviewed by the federal supreme court, though. On November 4 of 2019, Kansas v. Glover was argued to the Supreme Court of the United States (“SCOTUS”) Depending on the opinion that SCOTUS issues, Iowa police might not be able to rely on knowledge that a vehicle’s registered owner doesn’t have a valid license anymore to justify stopping people.
Knowing this can be crucial to your case. If a stop wasn’t legal, your Iowa criminal defense lawyer can ask the court to suppress the evidence that was found during that stop. If evidence found during a stop can’t be used at trial, it could make the entire case go away. For many defendants, case dismissal can be the difference between going home after court to hug their kids and get back to their lives and going to prison where they’ll be separated from their families and subject to thousands of dollars in fines.
Familiarity with Iowa criminal process and with constitutional protections is therefore an important part of Iowa criminal defense law.
The United States Constitution and the Iowa Constitution both offer numerous other protections relevant to criminal defense law. You are guaranteed the right to an attorney. The “double jeopardy” clause of the Fifth Amendment means that the government can’t try you twice for the same crime — and there’s been some recent unsettling about the “dual sovereigns” exception. (For example, Iowa could charge you with an Iowa crime and federal law enforcement could charge you with a federal crime for the same set of circumstances. People disagree on whether it’s okay to allow both the state and federal governments to separately try someone.)
The Sixth Amendment guarantees you a public trial by jury. It guarantees that you can cross-examine witnesses against you, so that someone accusing you of Iowa criminal charges has to show up and say, in front of you and the Court, what it is that they’re claiming that you did. The Sixth Amendment ensures that you can subpoena witnesses to appear at your trial and that you can compel people to turn over the evidence that may exonerate you.
After being arrested and given Iowa criminal charges, the first thing you want to do is go home. You have kids, pets, or a job to take care of. Polk County jail is bright and cold and concrete. There may not be enough beds, blankets, or pillows. The food isn’t particularly nutritious. There aren’t many books to read. You’re often surrounded by people who are dangerous, mentally ill in ways that may be risky to themselves or to you, angry, contagious, or boring.
They charge you room and board for every day that you spend in jail and it adds up — quickly. Most people want to get out of jail and go back to work. You’d probably rather be working to pay your mortgage (and your Iowa criminal attorney) than sitting in jail and building up a jail bill. Additionally, it’s easier for you to help your attorney prepare your defense when you can get out of a cell, sit down in their office, and help them by contacting witnesses and collecting relevant evidence for your trial.
When you’re brought in front of a judge for the first time, they may set “bail.” Someday, bail reform will be a real thing, but for today, in Iowa, you may be required to pay to get out of jail — even though you’re constitutionally presumed innocent.
When you (or a family member) pays bail, you give the court money to more or less promise that you’ll show up to your court appearances the way you’re supposed to. As long as you do that, you get the money back to you after your case is over. If you miss court, though, the court will have a forfeiture hearing. If you fail to show cause why bail shouldn’t be revoked, the court will keep the money you posted as bail — and they’ll send you back to jail, too.
The court can impose other release terms instead of or in addition to bail. You might be released “OR” or on your own recognizance. This means that the court isn’t requiring you to pay money to get out because they trust you to show up. You might be released on “PTR” or “release with services.” “Pretrial release” like this usually involves releasing you to pretrial services, who may set terms for you. It’s kind of like being on probation, but before conviction instead of after.
If the court sets bail or bond that is too high and that you can’t afford, your Iowa criminal lawyer can file a motion for bond review and ask that the court reconsider the terms it has imposed. A bail hearing will be set. Your Iowa criminal defense lawyer can ask witnesses to appear on your behalf at that hearing or can collect evidence that shows that you have good ties to the community and aren’t dangerous to yourself or other people. Often, the court will review this evidence and agree to a lower bond amount or to other terms of release than those previously imposed. Sometimes, the court will require a higher bond amount or otherwise make it more difficult for you to get out of jail.
While there are constitutional protections for poor people that are supposed to prevent them from being stuck in jail because they are poor, in practice, the state of the world is that poor people are sometimes denied affordable bail and people who are better-off financially or who have the support of friends and family members are able to secure pretrial release.
Iowa crimes and charges are defined in the Iowa Code. There are a ton of possible things that you could be charged with. Many of them are listed on this site. Many of them aren’t — the reality is that I have a limited amount of time to get everything done, and adding information about every possible charge you could face in Iowa would take more time than I could feasibly come up with.
If you have a question about a particular offense you’ve been charged with, get in touch. We can have a consultation to determine whether your case and our firm are a good fit.