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What Do You Do if You Are On Trial For a Crime in Iowa?

Suspects apprehended by law enforcement agencies in Iowa are required to appear in a criminal court. Several events occur during criminal proceedings, including a trial or plea bargain. The criminal trial proceedings are governed by the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure. The procedure varies based on the crime committed by the defendant. Serious crimes such as felonies and misdemeanors may result in jail sentences, while lesser violations may lead to the payment of fines or community service.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What Percentage of Criminal Cases Go to Trial in Iowa?

According to the 2019 Annual Report published by the Iowa Judicial Branch, there were 724,899 cases brought before the state district courts. Out of these cases, the court system was disposed of 721,872. The report further revealed an increase in felony and misdemeanor cases between 2015 and 2019. Although the report did not specify the number of cases that go into a trial, criminal cases are resolved at the preliminary stages in most cases. This is because accused persons quickly enter a plea bargain due to the number of evidence placed before them. Also, in a bid to maintain the integrity and competence of the judiciary system, the district court makes attempts to resolve cases by serving fair judgment quickly.

When Does a Criminal Defendant Have the Right to a Trial?

In Iowa, a defendant has the right to trial once a criminal charge is filed by the state prosecutor or law enforcement agency. The accused person will make the first appearance in court after the charge has been filed. During this initial court proceeding, the defendant can choose to appeal or plead, not guilty. The trial date is usually set as soon as the defendant describes the charges against him as ‘not guilty.’ On most occasions, criminal cases that go into trial are tried by a jury. However, the defendant has a right to waive this kind of trial by writing to the court within 30 days after the first appearance in court.

What Are the Stages of a Criminal Trial in Iowa?

A criminal trial in Iowa begins immediately after jury selection. Trial juries are selected according to the guidelines contained in Section 2.18 of the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure. The ensuing stages of a criminal trial are as follows.

  • Reading of the indictment by the state attorney or clerk to the jury
  • Statement of evidence by the state attorney
  • Statement of evidence by the defendant’s attorney. This may be stated after the presentation of the defendant’s evidence
  • Presentation of evidence by the state prosecutor.
  • Presentation of evidence by the defendant’s lawyer
  • Rebuttal or countering of evidence from both sides
  • Presentation of argument and additional rebuttal
  • Verdict

How Long Does it Take For a Case to Go to Trial in Iowa?

The time it will take for a case to go into trial depends on the type of crime. Minor violation and misdemeanors may be resolved at the first appearance before the criminal court. However, felony cases may take longer due to procedures like pretrial motions, discovery, and jury selection. Generally, the speedy trial rule in Iowa requires that accused persons be charged in court within 45 days of the first appearance in court. Nevertheless, the defendant has a right to waive the speedy trial rule.

What Happens When a Court Case Goes to Trial in Iowa?

When a criminal case moves to trial, the parties have the option to interview potential jurors. This process is known as voir dire, and it is used for fair selection of the jury. In a criminal case, the jury consists of 12 members of the jury, and either party may use strikes to oppose a member of the jury. The trial begins after the selection of the jury as the prosecutor reads out the indictment details of the accused. Afterward, the state attorney’s opening statement briefly describes the evidence and charges that the state will provide. The accused can immediately make an opening statement after the state’s opening statement or wait for the prosecution to close their case.

Following the introductory statements, the parties will provide evidence by interviewing witnesses and bringing in evidence like objects, photos, documents, and other elements in support or defense of the allegations. Each party must adhere to the Iowa Rules of Evidence. These rules regulate the evidence that is admissible in the proceedings and how it’s presented. An objection may be raised by a side that believes the opposing party is not abiding by the rules.

In bench trials, the accused person is not required to present evidence. If evidence is produced by the defendant, the prosecutor will be given a chance to rebut the evidence. In addition, both parties have the right to question the other party’s witnesses. Both sides make closing arguments after the presentation of evidence. This gives the prosecutor and defendant the chance to convince the jury or judge. Closing presentations should be centered on the evidence presented in the course of the trial.

A criminal trial can only come to a conclusion if the judge or jury arrives at a unanimous verdict. If a unanimous decision is not provided, there will be a mistrial. In such instances, the court will pick a date for another trial in front of another jury.

Can You Be Put On Trial Twice for the Same Crime in Iowa?

No, individuals that have been found not guilty by a district court in Iowa will never be on trial for the same crime in the state. This is found under the Double Jeopardy Clause within the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, there are some exceptions to this clause. This includes:

  • Dismissed cases caused by a lack of sufficient evidence
  • Trials that end with a unanimous decision from the jury and declared as a mistrial

How Do I Lookup a Criminal Court Case in Iowa?

According to the Iowa Open Records Law, state residents can access public records by making requests to the appropriate record custodian. Criminal case files, which are also regarded as public records, can be obtained by contacting the court clerk where the verdict was pronounced. Generally, court clerks grant mail and in-person requests while some provide online access to the records. An alternative method of looking up criminal case files is by using third-party sites like These sites offer quick and easy access to records that may be difficult to obtain for the record custodian.

How to Access Electronic Court Records in Iowa

Thanks to the Iowa Judicial Branch, court records are accessible online. The online repository is updated regularly on the last business day by court clerks. State residents seeking court records can perform a case search, payment search, advanced search, or scheduled search. General queries can be using the case or advanced search. The case search is available to the public while the advanced search is available to only registered users.

How Do I Remove Public Court Records in Iowa?

The Iowa Code section 901C.3 grants ex-convicts the right to remove records from the public. Criminal records may be expunged if

  • There are no other criminal charges filed against the defendant
  • All court fines and fees have been paid by the defendant
  • The conviction was passed eight years ago

Note that removing a record in Iowa means that it is kept from public view. Although the expunged file is erased from the database of the Iowa Department of Public Safety, it is still available at the court clerk’s office. Expunged files may be obtained through a court order.

Accused persons and other convicted criminals can remove a record by submitting an Application to Expunge Court Record to the district court where the case was concluded. The petition will be filed by the court clerk, and the court will review the application. A hearing date may be chosen to determine if the court will deny or grant the application.

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