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The following is an overview of types of criminal charges, potential penalties, and possible sentencing procedures under the Iowa criminal court system.Charged with a crime in Iowa? Please call (888) 632-5650.
Felonies and Misdemeanors
Iowa criminal laws are classified by seriousness using the terms “felony” or “misdemeanor”. While most people know these words, some don’t know just how drastically different these categories are.
In general, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, you face a maximum sentence of less than one year. If you are ordered to a period of incarceration for a misdemeanor, it will likely be served at a jail ran by the county or city where you live.
A felony, on the other hand, (and aggravated misdemeanors) carry a maximum sentence greater than a year and are typically served in a state prison. Felonies have a much larger impact on your future, though both crime classifications are serious.
Felonies and misdemeanors are further broken down into classes. Here are the Iowa misdemeanor and felony classifications and their potential sentences.
|Iowa Criminal Classification||Potential Criminal Penalty|
|Simple Misdemeanor||Up to 30 days in jail and $625 in fines|
|Serious Misdemeanor||Up to 1 year in jail and $1875 in fines|
|Aggravated Misdemeanor||Up to 2 years imprisonment and $6250 in fines|
|Class D Felony||Up to 5 years and $7500 in fines|
|Class C Felony||Up to 10 years and $10,000 in fines|
|Class B Felony||Up to 25 years|
|Class A Felony||Up to Life imprisonment|
Some crimes are exceptions to these sentencing classifications and may carry a mandatory minimum sentence.
Ref: IA. St. §902, 903
Sentencing for Iowa Criminal Charges
You’re facing criminal charges and the biggest thing on your mind is likely what they could mean for your future. You may be wondering if you will ever have to hear the closing of a jail cell or if you might get off with a slap on the wrist.
There are several things taken into consideration when your sentencing date arrives. The law, the circumstances of your case, and your criminal history are all factors that the court will consider.
One tool a judge will likely use in determine your punishment it the presentence investigation. These are often ordered in most criminal cases where jail time is a possibility, particularly in felony cases. In the state of Iowa, a presentence investigation is done by a probation officer and may include such information as:
- Criminal history
- Social and personal history
- Victim impact statements and information about harm to the victim that occurred during the commission of the crime.
The purpose of the presentence investigation extends beyond assisting a judge with sentencing and is even used by correction officials in the placement and treatment following sentencing.
Ref: IA. St. §901.2
Substance Abuse Evaluation
In cases where drugs or alcohol played a part, the judge may order a substance abuse evaluation as well. This will assist the judge in determining if treatment should be considered when imposing a sentence.
Ref: IA. St. §901.4A
For certain first time offenders who are accused of relatively minor criminal charges, a judge may order (upon the recommendation of the District Attorney) a period of “deferred prosecution” or a similar “conditional discharge”. This means that you, the accused, will serve probation before a verdict is entered.
If you successfully complete this probation before conviction, the case will not be entered as a conviction on your criminal record.
Ref: IA. St. §907
Depending on the charges against you, you may be eligible to serve probation in lieu of an active period of incarceration. When a judge orders a term of probation it is referred to as a “suspended sentence”.
A judge may sentence you to a period of 2 years, for example, but “suspend” that sentence while you serve 24 months of probation.
If you fulfill the requirements of your probation, you will have fulfilled your sentence. If you violate your probation, however, you risk that your original prison sentence will be “activated”, leading you to serve the time that was originally suspended.
Probation is marked by rules called conditions. In addition to being supervised by a probation officer, you have to abide by the conditions of your probation. Probation terms can include things like:
Ref: IA. St. §907
The circumstance surrounding your sentencing can be dramatically impacted by a plea bargain. Take a look at my overview of the criminal courts process for details on how plea agreements work.
When you are facing any type of criminal sentence it is normal to be completely intimidated. Court procedures are not easy to understand and while your sentencing date can mark an end to one stage of the process, it can mark the beginning of another potentially long process.
If you are facing time for a crime you didn’t commit or are looking to increase your odds of serving probation in lieu of active jail time, call me today to discuss the details of your case.