Code of Iowa

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Miranda Warning

The authorities must advise persons accused of criminal conduct of their Miranda Rights. They must only do so in the event of a custodial interrogation. In other words, if you are taken into custody and questioned, before the officer asks you questions, he/she must give you the Miranda warning.

If the officer is not going to ask you questions, no warning will be provided.

Do not talk to the police. If you are being questioned, exercise your right to remain silent and request an attorney.

Family and Friends

Clients often ask that their defense attorney speak with various family and friends. As a general rule, I refuse to do so for many reasons.

First off, anything you say to your attorney, in private, is confidential. If you say things to your attorney or your attorney says things to other people, your family or friends, it is not confidential. Your family and friends may end up being listed as witnesses to testify as to what you or your attorney said in their presence. This is a bad idea.

Clients will tell me they grant me permission to speak to family and friends so to release the claim of confidentiality. Won’t work with me. I won’t do it. It is a bad idea. The goal of the attorney is to defend his/her client. Not to help the State get their client convicted.

Any lawyer worth their salt will tell their client, keep your mouth shut. Do not talk to anybody about the charge. Talk to me, the attorney. Don’t help the State get your convicted.

Preliminary Hearing

This is a hearing in which the State of Iowa must present evidence to the court to establish that there is probable cause to believe that you committed the offense charged. Whether this hearing takes place or not varies widely across jurisdictions in Iowa. Even if you have one scheduled, they usually do not happen because before the hearing is held, the State will file a trial information charging you. This then circumvents the need to have such a hearing. You may waive this hearing but you should not do so if you are in jail. You should consult with your attorney. He/She will know best what you should do.

When the accused makes his/her first appearance before a judge following arrest, the judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. A Preliminary Hearing must be set within 10 days of this first appearance, called the “initial appearance,” if the defendant is being held in jail for bail, or 20 days if the defendant will be ordered released from jail. If you are released from jail, your attorney may “waive” this preliminary hearing.

Will you be required to appear? If the court orders you to appear at any hearing, you must always appear. It is best to speak with your attorney for advice on this as often lawyers may appear on your behalf.

Will this hearing be held? Very rare. Depends on what Iowa County you are in. They are not held because the prosecutor State will file the “trial information” which accuses you of the crime. Once this document is filed, the preliminary hearing is canceled. You will then be required to appear for “arraignment.”

If the preliminary hearing is held, and if the evidence presented by the State of Iowa shows there is probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it, the judge will order the defendant to attend further proceedings. The State is allowed to present any evidence it has at this hearing to show probably cause, including hearsay evidence. Defendants are allowed to ask witnesses questions and present their own witnesses.

I have not attended a preliminary hearing in 20 plus years. They are not held.

Trial Information

This is the formal document that is filed by the prosecuting attorney charging you with a criminal offense. The timing of the filing of this document is important. There are time limitations placed on the State of Iowa as to when this document must be filed. If the State fails to follow the rules, your charges may be dismissed.

Minutes of Testimony

The State of Iowa will attach what are called “Minutes” to the Trial Information. This document will consist of the names of the witnesses expected to be called by the State of Iowa to get you convicted of the charge. They will also include details of what the witnesses will say you did that constitute this charge. You need to read these documents and discuss them with your attorney.

Failure to Appear: almost all hearings and proceedings before the court require that you be present. Show up in clean clothes and sober. If you fail to appear, a warrant for your arrest may issue and you may end up sitting in jail. If you cannot appear in court on a particular date, let me know as soon as possible.


This is the court proceeding where you appear in court to plead guilty or not guilty to the charge(s) filed in the trial information. In most Iowa courts, this can be done by paper. Your attorney will have the documents needed to handle this for you.

At the conclusion of your arraignment, the court will typically schedule a “pre-trial conference.” This is prior to your trial date. It is fixed to give you and your attorney time to investigate the charges through discovery. (See Discovery and Pretrial Conference information below).

Speedy Trial

You have the right to be brought to trial in a speedy fashion. If you demand speedy trial at arraignment, the State of Iowa must bring you to trial within 90 days of that date. Typically, if you are in custody, we would want to demand speedy trial. If you are not in custody, typically we waive speedy trial. Discuss this fully with Patrick Wilson, Des Moines, Iowa defense lawyer.


There are various motions that are available in your defense. Patrick Wilson will determine what, if any, motions would have merit.


One of the most common aspects of defending someone accused of crime is to take depositions of the witnesses the State of Iowa has listed to testify. A deposition is when a witness appears to answer the questions of the lawyers. A court reporter will be present to swear the witness under oath. The defense attorney will begin asking the witnesses questions. The questions involve the witnesses’ history and anything the witness may have to say about the crime.

The attorney will file an pleading asking the court to authorize taking depositions. Once the court enters and order authorizing depositions, we then set up a date and time to sit down and take depositions.

As the defendant accused, you would need to be present to hear what these witnesses have to say and to assist the attorney. You can write notes to the attorney during the deposition. You will not be talking and it is best to remain silent. If you wish to speak, do so in private with your attorney.


These are two defenses available. Discuss them with your criminal defense attorney Patrick L. Wilson.

Pretrial Conference – Plea Bargains

After arraignment, the Court typically schedules a pretrial conference. You will be required to appear at that conference. At the pretrial conference, I will meet with you and I will also meet with the prosecutor. Discussions are had between the lawyers to see what kind of plea agreement or deal can be struck.

Perhaps the charge will be dismissed. Perhaps the charge will be reduced from a serious offense to a simple offense. What happens in each case is specific to that case. No two cases are alike.

Things like your criminal history; employment; family circumstances come into play. The prosecutor will also evaluate what took place concerning the crime. Was a victim injured? Does the victim want you sent to prison? What kind of damages were there. The State may have problems with their case. Perhaps a witness for the State is not cooperating. Every case is different.

If you reach an agreement, then the case might possibly be resolved that day and you will be done. If you cannot reach an agreement, perhaps discovery depositions need to be taken. You won’t likely know what will happen until that day when you show up.

If a deal is struck, I will not guarantee you what your sentence will be. The judge in your case makes the final decision as to your sentence. I might be able to tell you what I think will happen but there are no guarantees. I do not own a crystal ball.

If you strike a deal and plead to a charge, you can ask that sentencing be held at a later date.

If no deal can be struck, either another pre-trial conference will be scheduled or we will select a trial date.

Plea Proceeding

Typically you may plead guilty by signing a written plea document. If your charge is a felony, you must appear in court to enter a plea of guilty.

In some cases, the Court may require that there be a pre-sentence investigation report prepared before you are sentenced. This document is prepared by agents of the State of Iowa. They will gather all information about your background and put it into a report to provide to the judge before you are sentenced.

You have the right to request time for sentencing. You may plead guilty and want to be sentenced at a later date. Simply request time for sentencing and the court will schedule sentencing for a later date.

Your Rights

Whether you wish to have a trial by jury or to the court, you have certain Constitutional rights.

These are your rights:
You are innocent under the law until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The State is required to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
You have the right to trial by jury and the verdict must be unanimous.
You have a right to have a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint an attorney for you.
You have a right to see and hear evidence against me, from witnesses in open court.
You have a right to cross examine the witnesses who will testify against you.
You may testify in my defense. I may choose not to testify, and that choice may not reflect upon my guilt or innocence.
You have the right to produce witnesses to appear at trial and testify.
You can compel my witnesses to appear at trial and testify. This is by subpoena.
If you plead guilty, you give up those rights and there will not be a trial.

If you plead guilty…:
You will be told of the range of penalties.
You must be of sound mind at the time of the offense.
You must be of sound mind at the time you plead guilty.
You must be free of the influence of substances at the time of your plea of guilty.
Your plea must be free and voluntary. Nobody will make any threats or promises toward you. If they do, tell your attorney.
The court does not have to follow any plea bargain. The court may sentence you up to the maximum provided by law.
If you plead guilty you must do so because you are guilty.
You must know what you are doing and that you have made an intelligent choice to plead guilty.
You will be required to tell the judge what you did to cause you to be guilty of the offense.
You will be required to tell the court of all previous convictions you have before sentencing. If I do not, the court can vacate the sentence and impose a more severe sentence.
You have the right do have the court impose the sentence immediately following your plea if the charge is an Aggravated Misdemeanor or less. This means you can be sentenced at a later time. If you wish to wait, the sentencing date will be at least 15 days or more before sentencing.
If you wish to be sentenced the same day as you plead, you will be giving up the right to file a motion in arrest of judgment under Rule 23(3) of the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure.
A Motion in Arrest of Judgment must be filed at least five days before sentencing, otherwise it will be too late. If you do not file this motion, you will have no appeal to complain about the plea of guilty.
In other words, if you plead guilty and later you change your mind, wishing you had not entered a plea of guilty, you must file the Motion in Arrest of Judgment at least 5 days before you are sentenced. You must prove there was a defect in the plea proceeding in order to set
If you are not a U.S. citizen, as a result of this plea, you could be (1) deported, (2) denied U.S. citizenship or (3) denied legal entry into the U.S.

Sentencing Matters

When preparing to be sentenced, it is best to have a job. If you are not working, and not disabled, you need to find a job. ASAP. Stay out of trouble. Dress nice for court. No ragged jeans. Cut your hair and men, you need to shave. Don’t come to court looking like a bum. Get cleaned up. No t-shirts with pot symbols. No cut-offs or shorts. No muscle shirts.

Be prepared to explain to the judge why you should receive a deferred judgment or why you should be put on probation. If you have a record, you better figure out how you will explain that you have now learned your lesson.

Deferred Judgment

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