The criminal procedure in Iowa starts as soon as arrests are made, whether the detention is effected with an active warrant or not. When the police take an accused into custody without first seeking an arrest warrant in Iowa, the offender can be released at the discretion of the investigating officers. However, once an outstanding warrant has been issued and used to make arrests, the onus shifts onto the judiciary and only the magistrate can grant relief to the detainee through conditional release.
Regardless of how heinous the charges sought against an offender are, the police cannot indefinitely detain anybody. In fact, pursuant to the Iowa Criminal Code, the initial appearance of the offender has to occur within 24 hours of being detained. At this session, the defendant will be asked to enter a plea and he will also be informed of his rights by the magistrate. The bail petition will also be heard at the initial appearance.
Thereafter, a preliminary hearing will be held; this session is included in the criminal process for the purpose of ascertaining probable case one more time before the case can be bounded over to the appropriate tribunal for trial. The preliminary hearing will usually be waived if the defendant has been granted bail. When it is scheduled, it is set to occur within 10 days of arrests for defendants who are held in custody and within 20 days of detention for those who are out on conditional release.
Before the Trial
At the preliminary hearing, the burden on the state to prove guilt is very low. This means that like for arrest warrants, the prosecution merely has to show the possibility of the crime having been committed by the accused. Even if defense prevails through this stage, the state can always file an incitement that is supported by probable cause.
Indictment or formal charges are filed within 45 days of accused being taken into custody. At this stage, the court decides if the evidence in the trial information is enough to lead to a conviction. If for any reason, the indictment is not filed within 45 days without explanation, the charges will be dismissed without prejudice.
An arraignment is held next where the defendant is given a formal copy of the trial information and once again he is asked to enter a plea. This session may simply be conducted in writing. The pretrial motions come next. These are typically filed within 40 days of the arraignment and the defense may file the motion to suppress certain evidence, objections that are borne out of improper processing of the offender, etc.
A pretrial conference will be held before the matter goes in front of the jury. During this session, both sides try to resolve the matter through plea bargain. This is a deal offered to the defense by the prosecution under which the suspect will plead guilty or nolle contendre in return for lighter charges.
At the trial, the state has the burden to prove guilt beyond doubt but the defense need not prove that their client is innocent. They merely have to show the likelihood of the crime not being committed by the accused. Arguments from both sides are placed before the court on the basis of which the jury delivers its verdict
The sentencing is not carried out by the jury. Once the verdict is delivered, the judge takes over. The defense has the right to file an appeal against the verdict or a motion for a new trial. However, this has to be done within 45 days of the verdict. The judge will consider prosecutor recommendations, evidence, and investigative reports and the arrest records of the accused before imposing the sentence.