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Iowa Criminal Law: An Overview

Regardless of whichever side of the court you sit on in a criminal lawsuit, you should go in armed with the knowledge of the Iowa criminal laws that are relevant to your case.

Use LawInfo's criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Iowa's laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with an Iowa criminal law attorney in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport or elsewhere in the state.

Iowa Prosecutors File Criminal Charges

County attorneys, district attorneys, and the Attorney General lead the prosecution in criminal cases heard in Iowa. Some people may believe that the police are responsible for prosecuting a criminal case, but most of their jobs are spent making arrests and gathering evidence for the lawsuit. The only times the police play a role in the actual trial proceedings are when they're called in to testify.

While the prosecution would be your opposition if the lawsuit is about your criminal charges, there are times when a prosecuting attorney can inadvertently or purposefully help your case. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to determine the prosecution's strategy and craft a counter-strategy. They can also work with the prosecution to create a plea deal that could reduce the severity of your penalties.

Crime Classifications in Iowa

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Iowa has two main classifications of criminal offenses: felonies and misdemeanors. While felonies are the most serious offenses and misdemeanors are less serious, each type of offense falls under a specific degree of felony or misdemeanor that suggests maximum and minimum penalties.

Felonies carry the most severe penalties, including fines and years of imprisonment. They are subdivided into four degrees of seriousness:

  • Class A Felonies—The most serious offenses, including the first-degree murder of another person or a police officer. These felonies are penalized with mandatory life imprisonment sentences without parole or probation.
  • Class B Felonies—These offenses include second-degree murder, some drug offenses and child endangerment. Offenders may not be sentenced to more than 50 years of imprisonment for specific Class B felonies or 25 years for most other offenses.
  • Class C Felonies—These offenses include assisted suicide, vehicular manslaughter and kidnapping. Penalties include up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine between $1,000 and $10,000.
  • Class D Felonies—These offenses include extortion, terrorism and violating child custody orders. Penalties include up to five years of imprisonment and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

Offenses that aren't classified as felonies are typically classified as misdemeanors. They are subdivided into three degrees of seriousness:

  • Aggravated Misdemeanors—These offenses include stalking, harassment and assault. Penalties include up to two years of imprisonment and a fine between $625 and $6,250.
  • Serious Misdemeanors—These offenses include domestic abuse and assaulting a firefighter, emergency care provider or officer of the peace. Penalties include up to one year in county jail and a fine between $315 and $1,875.
  • Simple misdemeanors—These offenses include possession of drug paraphernalia and public exposure. Penalties include up to 30 days in county jail and a fine between $65 and $625.
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