Criminal Justice FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about the Criminal Justice Process

What is arrest and arraignment?

The purpose of an arrest is to bring an individual, or individuals, to court to secure the administration of law. The accused has the right to appear before a judge, usually within 24 hours of the arrest. At this initial appearance, the court must read the charges against the accused. If the court finds that the accused cannot afford an attorney, one is appointed to represent him at this time. The arraignment is the formal accusation of the defendant where a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered. The defendant does not need to be present if a written arraignment is filed on their behalf by his or her attorney.

What is the discovery process?

If the defendant pleads not guilty, the defense attorney has a right to discover the State’s evidence in the case. Discovery can include viewing documents as evidence and conducting interviews under oath of State’s witnesses. Victims and witnesses will be contacted, or may receive a subpoena, if the state feels that they may possess evidentiary information.

What is the process of entering a guilty plea?

Since a plea of guilty means that the defendant is admitting to the crime he or she is being charged with, the court has certain qualifications before accepting it. The court won’t accept a guilty plea unless it determines that the defendant has the capacity to enter the plea that the defendant is knowingly entering into the plea, that the plea is voluntarily entered into, and that the defendant admits to the charged crime. A defendant may change his or her plea to guilty at any time, and most defendants eventually do choose to plead guilty as plea negotiations continue.

How do Bail and Bonds Work?

This is a contract between a bail agent and the individual posting bail. The bail agent guarantees to the court that the defendant will appear in court whenever the judge requires him or her to. The defendant is charged a percentage of the bail amount, and before being released, the defendant, a relative, or a friend of the defendant, typically contacts a bail agent to arrange for the posting of bail. Prior to the posting of a bail bond, the defendant or a co-signer must guarantee that he or she will pay the full amount of bail if the defendant does not appear in court.

What is a Deferred Judgment or Sentence?

If you were convicted of a crime in the state of Iowa, you may be eligible for Deferred Judgment or Sentence of offenses from your record if the court offered you – for example, you were placed on probation and were required to perform certain duties. If your sentence or judgment is deferred and you successfully complete the terms of your probation the charges will be dismissed