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Criminal Process

Felony Crimes

Felony offenses are the most serious crimes established in the Iowa Code. 

Conviction of a felony can result in: 

  • a prison term served in a State penal institution.
  • loss of the right to vote, hold office, or to possess firearms.
  • bonding or insurance coverage being required before beginning employment. Some insurance companies refuse to bond convicted felons making it difficult to become employed in certain positions.

Indictable Misdemeanors

Indictable misdemeanors are referred to as serious or aggravated misdemeanors.

Conviction of a serious or aggravated misdemeanor can result in:

  •  a term of up to one year in the county jail or a term not to exceed two years in prison.   
  • enhanced sentencing for a repeat offender convicted of multiple OWI's, Possession of a Controlled Substances, or Domestic Abuse Assaults which can increase the penalties to the felony level.

Simple Misdemeanors

Simple misdemeanors are the least serious offenses in the Iowa Code and can include traffic offenses. 

  • Conviction of a simple misdemeanor offense can result in a fine, jail time, and/or both.

The Criminal Process

After a Crime is Reported

  • an investigation is started, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few years, by the agency that has jurisdiction over the location where the crime occurred; however, any peace officer in the State of Iowa can be involved in an investigation anywhere in the State.
  • Officers may work together to solve a crime, or may call upon the Division of Criminal Investigation to assist. 
  •  a lack of evidence and/or witnesses, may cause a case to never reach the point where an investigation can be successfully concluded.

Charges are Filed

  • if the officer has collected enough evidence to believe that a particular person committed a crime:
  • after the officer makes a decision as to what crime should be charged. This is sometimes done after consultation with other officers, their supervisor and/or the county attorney.
  • by filing a Complaint with the Clerk of Court. 

An Initial Appearance

  • is set shortly after a defendant is arrested.
  • is when the defendant is advised by the Magistrate of the charge(s) that have been made and the possible legal consequences if convicted.
  • is when the defendant can apply for court-appointed counsel.
  • is when a No Contact Order can be issued in sexual or domestic abuse cases.
  • is when a preliminary hearing date is set along with bail conditions.

Bail Conditions Can Require

  • that the defendant post money to get out of jail.
  • that the defendant be released on pre-trial supervision to a person or agency.
  • that the defendant obtain evaluations.

A Preliminary Hearing

  • is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the charges against the defendant.
  • is where the State presents evidence showing the defendant probably committed the crime.

A Trial Information

  • is a charging document containing the indictment against the defendant. 
  • is filed along with the Minutes of Testimony, which contains a list of the State’s witnesses and a summary of the evidence.
  • is reviewed by a Judge to determine if there is enough evidence to support the charges, and if so, the Judge signs an Order allowing it to be filed and sets a date for Arraignment.

An Arraignment

  • is the formal accusation of the defendant.
  • requires the defendant to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty after which a trial date will be set.
  • may be in the form of a written arraignment that addresses all of the issues that would have occurred at the hearing. 

A Pre-trial Conference

  • occurs If the defendant pleads not guilty.

Pretrial Motions can include

  • a request for discovery of the State's evidence in the case.
  • a request for depositions which would involve issuing subpoenas to Victims/witnesses to give testimony prior to trial.
  • a request to suppress evidence.

Plea Negotiations Involve

  • having the defendant plead to a different charge than what was originally filed to decrease the range of penalties.
  • pleading to the original charge with an agreement for a sentencing recommendation.

A Trial

  • can be either a jury trial or a bench trial (Judge only).
  • usually involves the reading of the charge by the county attorney.
  • begins with opening statements by the attorneys, followed by the presentation of the State’s case, Defendant’s case and then any rebuttal and closing arguments.
  • goes to the jury after the Judge reads the jury instructions.
  • ends after the jury has reached a unanimous decision and the verdict is returned. If the defendant is found guilty, a sentencing hearing is set. If found not guilty, the defendant faces no further consequences as a result of the charge.

The Sentencing

  • takes many factors into account, primarily, what the defendant did, whether there is a victim, whether there was personal injury or property damage, and the defendant’s criminal history, history of services, attitude, and level of cooperation.
  • is when Victim restitution will be ordered if applicable.
  • is when Victims have the right to address the Court to describe how the defendant’s actions impacted their lives. This can have a significant impact on the Court’s sentence.



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