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What Are Iowa Traffic Court Records?

All legal documents, case files, evidence reports and proceeding records generated from the adjudication of a traffic violation in court, in the state of Iowa are referred to as Iowa traffic records. They encompass records related to all moving and non-moving violations under the motor vehicle code of the state of Iowa.

Are Iowa Traffic Court Records Public Records?

Most traffic court records are. Records created in a court of public record are deemed public information, subject to be accessed and viewed by members of the public unless the records have been restricted by a court order or by law. Records from Iowa traffic court fall under this purview and, as such, are deemed public records.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in Iowa.

A Uniform Citation and Complaint ticket is a legal document issued by a law enforcement officer, within the state of Iowa for violations of the state traffic statutes and/or ordinances. It represents the officer’s sworn statement on their observations regarding the incident. The officer will complete the ticket before issuing it to the defendant. The ticket will indicate the county where the ticket was issued and the location of the court where the case is to be heard. The full name of the defendant, address, date of birth and other relevant bio-data will be filled in as well. The defendant’s driver’s license information will also be included on the ticket along with pertinent information about the vehicle involved in the violation. The location where the violation allegedly occurred, along with time and date will also be noted.

Fine amounts and court surcharges for each violation will be listed and an indication, if a court appearance is required, i.e. whether the ticket is non-scheduled, and the reason for this. The type of violation and the statute/ordinance section being violated are also included on the ticket. The officer will sign the ticket and include his officer ID and the date of issuance. The officer will list the date for the court appearance with the location of the county and the time of appearance. Before receiving their copy, the defendant is required to sign the ticket acknowledging receipt of the ticket, and thus awareness of the citation, and as a promise to resolve the issue.

The ticket should include the total fine amount unless it is marked as non-scheduled or (unscheduled) in which case a mandatory court appearance is required where you will be notified of your fine costs. If the ticket is not marked as such and the fine amounts are not listed, then you will need to contact the clerk of the court to obtain your costs or you can look it up on the court payment website. Traffic fines and court fees tend to be uniform across the state of Iowa but will vary by violation.

Iowa operates a points-based system that is designed to keep the most hazardous and recalcitrant drivers off the road. Most minor violations will not be assigned points but convictions for all moving violations will be noted. Convictions on traffic violations will be reported to the Iowa Driver and Identification Services. If you are considered to be a habitual offender i.e. you accrue 3 or more violations in 12 months, your license will be suspended by the Iowa Department of Transportation (DoT). This can also occur if you are convicted of a “serious” violation such as DUIs. Accumulation of 6 points and above will lead to a suspension of your license.

Traffic violations fall under the classes of moving or non-moving violations. Non-moving violations are committed by a vehicle as a result of damaged equipment or when the vehicle is not in motion. Moving violations are committed when a vehicle is in motion. Non-moving violations can also be committed by moving vehicles, such as a failure to wear a seatbelt; however, these kinds of violations will not lead to a suspension by the Iowa DoT.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in Iowa?

If you receive a traffic ticket in Iowa, you are required to respond to the ticket by the date indicated on the ticket or risk added consequences. You can decide to either

  • Accept Guilt and pay off the ticket.
  • Reject the charge and contest the ticket.

To pay off the ticket, you must enter a plea of “Guilty” or “No Contest”. A guilty plea indicates acceptance of your guilt, regarding the charges. A no-contest plea informs that while you are not admitting guilt to the charges, you do not wish to contest them. Both pleas will result in the same actions. The ticket can be paid:

  • Online- Using the Iowa Courts online payment system. You will require the citation number, full name and the county where the ticket was issued.
  • Mail- A copy of the ticket with the total fine amount to the clerk of the court where the ticket was issued, and this is usually noted near the top of the ticket.
  • In-Person- You can go to the county court listed on the ticket in person and make the payment.

To contest the ticket, you will need to inform the court of your decision. The ticket will contain information on the timeline by which to respond, which district court to contact and instructions for contacting the court in person, by mail or by phone. Upon contacting the court, you will receive a date for your arraignment. On your arraignment date, you enter your plea and a trial date will then be set. At the conclusion of the trial, the judicial officer will render judgment. If you are found not to be guilty, the charges will be dismissed and you are freed from paying the ticket and the violation will not show up on your record. If you are found to be guilty, then you will be convicted on the charges. You will have to pay the original fine and any other penalties imposed. The violation will be noted on your driving record. Depending on the severity of the violation, you can have points added to your license which can lead to a suspension.

It may be possible to have a trial by written declaration. Essentially this means that you can write up your arguments against the citation and send it to the court, rather than make an appearance. If this option is available, then you can utilize it. You will have to send in your ticket along with the written declaration. The officer who issued the ticket will also send in their written statement regarding the violation and the judge, upon reviewing both statements, will make his judgment. If you lose your trial by declaration, it is possible to request an in-person trial and have another chance to contest the ticket.

Failure to appear at any of your court dates will result in repercussions which could include additional fines and penalties, immediate suspension of your license, points on your driving record or even a warrant for your arrest. It is advisable to retain professional representation if you decide to contest the ticket.

How Do I find Iowa Traffic Court Records?

Traffic court records can be obtained from the court clerk’s office, at the court where the case was heard. It may also be possible to find them on the website of the Iowa courts’ website.

Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

What information is required to obtain Iowa Traffic Court Records?

To obtain traffic court records in Iowa, you will need to provide information about the record you require which includes the full name of the defendant, date of birth and the case file number. The person will need to provide a valid ID when making the request. You may also be liable for court costs, especially if you require copies of the records.

Are all Traffic Violations handled the same way, in Iowa?

Iowa traffic violations and infractions result in varying fines and penalties based on the nature of the violation. Irrespective of the processes involved in responding to the traffic violation will generally be the same in all cases, based on how you decide to respond. That is to say that if you choose to pay the traffic ticket then the processes will be similar for all violations; Likewise, if you choose to contest the ticket.

Can Iowa Traffic Records be sealed or expunged?

Some traffic records can be sealed. Major traffic violations in Iowa are considered to be misdemeanor criminal offenses as they come with the possibility of jail time if convicted. If you were charged with a misdemeanor, you may be able to apply for expungement if:

  • All the charges against you were dropped
  • You were found “Not Guilty” on all charges
  • You have paid all court costs associated with the case

You will have to wait for at least 6 months after your dismissal or acquittal date to begin your application.

How does one end up in an Iowa Traffic court?

In Iowa, you end up in traffic court if you get a ticket for a traffic violation by a law enforcement officer and

  • Your ticket was marked as non-scheduled or it was indicated on the ticket that a court appearance was mandatory.
  • You wish to contest the charges against you, by trial, in court.

Either of the above situations will land you in traffic court.

Which Courts in Iowa have jurisdiction to hear traffic violation matters?

Traffic violations in Iowa are heard by the District Court which has jurisdiction over the location (county or municipality) where the ticket was issued.

Iowa Traffic Court Records