Iowa Criminal Lawyers

If you’ve been charged with a crime in Iowa, you should schedule an initial consultation with an Iowa criminal law firm.

What is the role of a Des Moines criminal defense lawyer?

The Iowa criminal process starts with investigation by law enforcement.  

If you’re aware that you’re suspected of or under investigation for a criminal offense, you can start your defense before you’re ever charged.  During investigation, a lawyer can help you preserve evidence, investigate possible witnesses, and start planning trial strategy.

If you’re hoping for dismissal of misdemeanor or felony charges, the information that your lawyer collects during pre-charge investigation – and even afterward, during trial prep – might be useful for negotiations.  Your defense lawyer might be able to show the prosecutor that you’re innocent or should have your charges dismissed or reduced.

If dismissal isn’t an option and you don’t want to accept a plea bargain, your Iowa criminal law firm will prepare for trial. It takes a lot of time to get ready for trial.  If your lawyer primarily practices in an area other than criminal law, it might take them extra time to prepare.  

Before trial, your attorney will discuss your options with you.  She or he will make sure that you understand your options and how much trial costs.  They will make sure you understand what rights you may give up, including your right to trial and your right to appeal, if you accept a deferred judgment or a plea bargain.

Your lawyer will explain what evidence is likely to be admitted at trial and what outcomes are likely or possible.  Your lawyer can’t promise you any particular outcomes or change your fees based on whether you win or lose in a criminal trial.  

What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

Iowa charges are divided into two classes: misdemeanors and felonies.  Generally speaking, felonies are more serious than misdemeanors.

There are three types of misdemeanors in Iowa: simple, serious, and aggravated.  Some misdemeanor code sections, such as drunk driving, have particular punishments outlined for them in the law.  If a misdemeanor doesn’t have a particular punishment or range of punishments outlined for it, the punishment will be as follows:


Simple Misdemeanors

Simple offenses: fines of $65-$625 (Iowa Code 903.1), plus a 35% surcharge (Iowa Code 911.1).  The court can also send you to jail for up to 30 days instead of fining you or in addition to fining you (Iowa Code 903.1)

Serious Misdemeanors

Serious offenses: fines of $315-$1875 (Iowa Code 903.1) plus a 35% surcharge (Iowa Code 911.1).  The court can also send you to jail for up to a year in addition to fining you (Iowa Code 903.1)

Aggravated Misdemeanors

Aggravated offenses: fines of $625-$6250 (Iowa Code 903.1) plus a 35% surcharge (Iowa Code 911.1)  The court can also send you to jail for up to two years.  If the court sends you to jail for more than a year, the term will be indeterminate.)


There are four types of felonies in Iowa: Class A felonies, class B felonies, Class C felonies, and Class D felonies.  If a felony doesn’t have a particular punishment or range of punishments outlined for it, the punishment will be as follows:

Class “A” Felonies

If you’re convicted of a class A felony, you can expect to serve a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole unless the governor commutes your sentence to a term of years.  


For first offense convictions of conspiracy to manufacture for delivery, delivery, or intent or conspiracy to deliver amphetamine or methamphetamine to a minor, you will serve up to 99 years in prison. A second conviction for one of these offenses will be a class A felony.

Class “B” felonies

If you’re convicted of a class B felony, you will serve up to 25 years in prison.

Habitual Offender

If you’re convicted as a habitual offender (for an offense other than Driving While Barred,) you will serve up to 15 years in prison.  A mandatory minimum 3 year sentence applies.  

Class “C” felonies

A class C felony conviction will result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years and criminal fines of $1000 – $10,000.

Class “D” felonies

A class D felony conviction will put you in prison for up to 5 years.  You will be ordered to pay a criminal fine of $750-$7500.

What charges can a Des Moines criminal attorney help with?

Some common case types include drug defense, OWI / DUI, violent crime, and property crime.

Iowa drug defense

There are lots of different drug charges in Iowa law.  The local county sheriff’s office will enforce them, even if you think it isn’t fair.

If you’ve been arrested or charged, you should learn about what you’re facing.  Even paraphernalia and simple possession could get you jail time in Iowa.

Fortunately, in order to convict you of possessing illegal drugs, the government has to prove you guilty of all elements.  “Intent” is one element of criminal offenses.  In Iowa, you have to at least know that you’re in possession of something that is a controlled substance.  If you don’t know that you have something, you aren’t guilty and may have a defense.  Your Des Moines possession of controlled substance attorney can talk to you about defense options.

Marijuana in Iowa

The marijuana possession punishments are a little bit gentler than the punishments for other drug crimes.

If your marijuana charge is the first crime you’ve ever been accused of, it will be a serious misdemeanor charge.  You could spend up to 6 months in jail and face of fine of up to $1000 (plus surcharges.)   In comparison, many other serious misdemeanors come with up to 1 year in jail and fines of between $315 and $1875.


Many states call drunk driving a DUI.  In Iowa, what other states call a DUI is called an OWI.

If you’re 21 years old or older, the legal limit for BAC is .08.  If you fail the breathalyzer or fail a blood test or a urine test, you will be charged with OWI.

If you’re under 21, you will be charged for BAC in excess of .02.

You can also be convicted of OWI if the fact finder is convinced that you were intoxicated when you drove, regardless of how high your blood alcohol was.  Additionally, if you have any controlled substances or drug metabolites in your blood or urine, you can be charged with drug OWI.

First offense OWI is a serious misdemeanor.  There is a $1250 fine.  Iowa DUI convictions require a minimum of 48 hours in jail.  You will lose your license, have to pay for SR-22 insurance, and be required to have an ignition interlock device in any car you own or drive.

Property Crime

Being accused of property crimes could make you lose your job.

Property crime includes things like theft, criminal mischief / vandalism, arson, and possession of stolen property.

A defense lawyer can help you navigate any possible defenses.  If, for instance, you can prove that property really did belong to you, that’s a good defense to theft accusations.

Violent Crime

Violent crimes you might be familiar with include assault, domestic abuse, disorderly conduct, interference with official acts, intimidation, and carrying weapons.

Some violent crimes are considered forcible felonies.  Certain forcible felony convictions require you to go to prison for at least five years without possibility of parole.

Because the punishments for violent crime can be dramatic and life-changing, it’s very important to talk to a lawyer.

People charged with assault might be offended and say that they didn’t even hit the other person.   You don’t have to bruise someone, leave a mark, or even touch them at all in order to be charged with or convicted for a violent crime.

Remember not to talk to the police before you talk to your lawyer.

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