Criminal Justice Procedures & Timelines

Arrest: Starts the process. Arrest is defined as “the taking of a person into custody when and in the manner authorized by law.

Initial Appearance: The magistrate or judge informs the individual of the preliminary charge(s) against them and of his/her rights.  Counsel may be appointed if the proper conditions are met. Only in Simple Misdemeanor cases can you enter a plea to charge(s) at this time. The Initial Appearance must occur without “unnecessary delay” after arrest. “Unnecessary delay” normally means less than 24 hours.

Preliminary Hearing: Must be held within 10 days of arrest if the individual is still in custody or 20 days after arrest if not in custody. In almost all cases, the Preliminary Hearing is avoided by the prosecutor filing the Trial Information and Minutes of Testimony prior to the hearing date.

Arraignment: Court date where the defendant enters a plea of guilty or not guilty to the charges. Most often, this is done in writing avoiding a court appearance.

Defense Motions

Notice of Deposition: Must be filed within 30 days of the arraignment unless good cause is established by the defendant. Depositions are when the defendant through his/her attorney is permitted to bring the State’s witnesses and ask them questions, under oath, about what they will testify to at trial.  The witness’s answers are recorded by a court reporter

Waiver of Jury Trial: Must be filed within 30 days of the arraignment unless good cause is established by the defendant or at any time with prosecutors consent

Pre-Trial Motions: The following pretrial motions must be filed within 40 days of the Arraignment or they are waived unless good cause is established by the defendant.

Motion to Suppress: Motion claiming that evidence was illegally obtained and requesting that the evidence be declared inadmissible at trial.

Requests for discovery

Requests for severance: Motion requesting that defendant’s trial be held separate from co-defendant’s trial.

Motion for change of venue or change of judge

Motion in Limine: Motion requesting that the State be prevented from presenting certain evidence or arguments. A Motion in Limine must be filed no later than 9 days prior to trial.

Notice of Defenses: Alibi, Self Defense, Insanity, Diminished Responsibility, Intoxication, Entrapment.

Hearings on these motions are held at a time scheduled by the court prior to trial. Defendant’s presence is required.

Pretrial Conference: The pretrial conference is ordinarily held within about a month after the arraignment date. It is a time for defense counsel and the county attorney to resolve the case by way of plea bargaining prior to jury trial, or inform the Court that the case will go to trial This is a mandatory appearance for the defendant and failure to appear will result in a warrant for the defendant being issued.

Trial: A defendant must be brought to trial within 90 days from the date of arraignment unless he/she waives that right. In any event the defendant must be brought to trial within 1 year from the date of initial arraignment.

Verdict: At the end of the State’s and defendant’s case, the jury retires for deliberation and must reach a unanimous decision of either guilty or not guilty. If they are unable to reach a unanimous decision then a mistrial is declared and the case is rescheduled for a retrial with a new jury.

Upon a verdict or plea of guilty

Motion in Arrest of Judgment/New Trial: Must be made within 45 days after plea or verdict but in any event no later than 5 days before sentencing.

Pronouncement of Judgment/Sentencing: The Judge hears and considers evidence and the recommendations of the prosecutor, defense counsel, and, in felony cases, the Department of Corrections through the Pre-sentence Investigation Report.  Both the State and the defendant may put on witnesses on their behalf and the defendant has the right to both testify under oath and be subject to cross-examination by the State and to make an unsworn statement with no cross-examination before the Judge imposes sentence. Sentences may range from Deferred Judgment to a suspended sentence (probation) to the maximum penalty allowed by law.

Deferred Judgments: Criminal Judgment is not imposed and the Defendant is not convicted.  The Defendant is placed on probation which allows a defendant to have the charges removed from the public record after a successful period of probation

Appeals: Notice of Appeal: If the defendant wishes to appeal any or all parts of the entire case to the Iowa Supreme Court, notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days from the date of sentencing.

Reconsideration of Sentence: A defendant may file a motion for reconsideration of sentence requesting that the court reconsider the previously imposed sentence. This motion must be filed within 30 days from the date of sentencing in a misdemeanor and within 1 year from the date of sentencing for a felony. Whether or not a sentence is reconsidered is solely within the discretion of the sentencing judge.


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