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Legal Process for DUI (OWI) in Iowa

Arraignment: Your first court hearing following arrest for an OWI is called the arraignment. At your arraignment, the judge will formally explain the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea.  If you plead guilty, the judge will sentence you.  A plea of not guilty will begin the process of setting a pretrial conference and trial.  Other issues such as setting bail and the appointment of an attorney may be arranged at this time.  Sometimes in Iowa it is possible to make a written arraignment instead of going to court before a judge.

Pretrial Conference:  The purpose of this hearing is to inform the judge of the status of your case. This is a chance for you and/or your attorney to meet with the prosecutor to discuss available plea bargains. If a plea agreement is reached at or prior to this hearing, the judge will enter it on the record. A sentencing hearing may be ordered. If no plea arrangement is made, the judge will set the case for trial. Any issues with discover and scheduling may also be dealt with at this time

Motion Hearings:  At the motion hearing, your attorney may call witnesses and cross-examine any police officers or state witnesses involved in your case. Expert witnesses may also be used. Your attorneys will likely file defense motions that attempt to suppress or challenge evidence.

Trial: There are two possible types of trials in Iowa OWI cases – Jury trials and Bench trials. In Jury trials, a judge presides over the case to determine the issues of law, while a jury will determine the issues of fact.  In a Bench trial, a judge will hear the case and will act as both judge and jury, determining issues of law as well as issues of fact. If the outcome of a trial (whether Bench or Jury) is a Not Guilty verdict, the case and all charges will be dismissed.  If the outcome is a Guilty verdict, a sentencing hearing will be held.

Sentencing Hearing: At a sentencing hearing, the judge will determine what sentence should be imposed.  Sentences involve jail time, fines, license revocations or suspensions, and alternative punishments such as community service, alcohol or drug abuse treatment, or installation of an “ignition interlock” device on your vehicle, which prevents you from operating your vehicle if your BAC exceeds a certain level, typically .02. In some instances the judge may suspend a sentence and offer the defendant probation. However, mandatory minimum penalties cannot typically be waived.

Appeal: Following a guilty verdict in an Iowa OWI trial, the defendant will have a right to appeal to higher courts for review.  Request for an appeal must be made timely, however, or the right for review will be considered waived.


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