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Iowa City Criminal Defense Law Blog

One charged with murder and robbery in killing of Iowa teen

A 28-year-old Des Moines man was arrested and charged Monday with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the killing of a 17-year-old. Officials believe additional arrests are to come. They also believe that the teen was targeted, and it was not a random crime.

Law enforcement officials received a call stating that shots had been fired around 8:40 p.m. on Sunday, April 14th. The location was in the 1700 block of East 12th Street, on the city's northeast side. Just a few minutes later, a gunshot victim arrived at MercyOne Medical Center, where he died just a short while later. The teen is the youngest victim of gunfire in Des Moines since June 2018. The victim of that shooting was also 17 years old.

Iowa sex offenders now required to report social media identities

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that sex offenders must report their social media identities and other digital information as part of the state sex offender registry. The court found that this does not violate an offender's right to free speech. Five out of seven justices agreed, but the opinion emphasized the fact that the decision does not prevent them from using social media, and they are not required to disclose passwords.

The law was challenged by a registered sex offender who was convicted of molesting his 13-year-old stepdaughter. He was sentenced to a five-year suspended prison sentence and was required to provide his name, address, and phone number to his local sheriff. However, ten years later, he was charged with failing to provide his Facebook user name. He claimed that those rules did not apply to him because he was convicted prior to the internet disclosure requirements, and the requirements infringed his First Amendment rights. The justice who authored the opinion stated that the rules could apply to the offender retroactively because they were not intended to punish him for his crime. They were, instead, intended as a protective measure to prevent or detect internet use.

Man pleads guilty to lesser charge in Fort Dodge murder

A 26-year-old Lafayette, IN man was set to go on trial Monday, March 25, 2019 for first-degree murder in the killing of a 26-year-old woman in August 2017. Her body was also burned. Instead, he pleaded guilty to attempt to commit murder, desecration of a corpse, and accessory after the fact. Those charges are respectively considered a class B felony, a class D felony and an aggravated misdemeanor in the state of Iowa.

Had the man gone to trial and been found guilty of first-degree murder, his sentence would have been life in prison. Instead, his attorney was able to negotiate a plea agreement with prosecutors for these lesser charges. He will now be sentenced on April 22, 2019 at the Webster County Courthouse in Fort Dodge. In addition to the sentence, he will also be ordered to pay $150,000 to the family of the deceased. There was also a second, female Defendant in this case. Her trial is not set to begin until June. However, the family of the deceased sued her for wrongful death and punitive damages. That lawsuit is pending, and claims that the husband has suffered loss of love, affection and companionship. The couple also had minor children.

Commission wants to bar criminal history job applicant questions

Likely for as long as we can remember, job applications have asked questions relating to whether or not an applicant has a criminal history. If such a history does exist, a full explanation is required along with dates, dispositions, and any other relevant information. One Iowa group is advocating for change.

The Waterloo Commission on Human Rights is an administrative agency in Waterloo, IA whose purpose is to maintain local civil rights. It was created under Chapter 216.19 of the Code of Iowa, which mandates that cities with population of 29,000 or greater have such a commission. The groups' authority falls under Ordinance 4064, which offers protection from discrimination in many areas, including employment. In addition, it offers protection from retaliation for reporting discriminatory acts. The Commission feels that eliminating the questions regarding criminal history of an applicant will ensure that everyone gets a fair chance at employment. It would not prevent the employer from performing background checks. Further, the ban would apply to both the public and private sector employers.

Iowa man facing felony charges for OWI, theft and firearm

A 45-year-old Columbus Junction man is in serious trouble after a traffic violation stop. He now faces felony charges of operating while under the influence (OWI), control of a firearm by a felon, unlawful possession of prescription drugs, interference with official acts, theft in the fifth degree, driving while license denied or revoked and possession of drug paraphernalia. The OWI offense was his third. Having had two prior felony convictions, he was barred from legally possessing firearms.

Prior to the traffic stop leading to these charges, police received a call about a shoplifting at a nearby liquor store. They watched surveillance video there. Upon stopping the vehicle driven by the 45-year-old man, officers found pills, drug paraphernalia including pipes, two rifles with ammunition and multiple liquor bottles. The man matched the shoplifter officer viewed in the surveillance video and Johnson County Sheriff's Deputies took him into custody.

Don't face possible loss of student financial aid alone

For decades now, Iowa police have been focusing much of their law enforcement efforts on drug use and drug trafficking. The War on Drugs was undertaken with the goal of reducing drug use. During this war, many people have faced the legal consequences of a drug conviction. These consequences can include imprisonment, probation, fines and other penalties. They can also include some other consequences that may not come to mind immediately for most people.

Last month, we wrote briefly on one of these consequences: loss of student loan eligibility. Depending on the circumstances, a student could lose federal student loan eligibility if they are convicted of a drug-related offense. It's usually possible to regain eligibility after some effort, but a student's academic progress could be delayed. This could be problematic for students at the University of Iowa, Coe College, Cornell College and other area schools.

Man faces criminal charges including a felony after car chase

In Cedar Rapids and throughout Iowa, people might view criminal allegations as having to do with violence, theft and sex-related crimes. There are many others including traffic violations. They might not sound serious on their face, but they can lead to major penalties if there is a conviction. When there are motor vehicle violations, it will frequently be classified as driving under the influence or being cited for speeding and other traffic issues. However, if a driver commits traffic violations and flees from law enforcement, there can be serious long-term consequences after a conviction. These can even rise to felonies making it even more difficult. Getting legal representation when arrested on these charges is imperative to lodging a strong defense.

A 25-year-old man was arrested for several traffic offenses including a felony for eluding law enforcement after a high-speed chase. The incident began when police tried to stop the man's vehicle. He fled and drove at speeds beyond 100-mph. As they continued the chase, the vehicle pulled off the interstate and was finally brought to a stop when traffic spikes were placed in the roadway to flatten his tires. When the man was checked, officers believed he was under the influence of drugs. They examined his record and found that he also had outstanding warrants. He was arrested and charged with multiple offenses including eluding law enforcement, OWI and other traffic violations. Many of the warrants were related to driving-related offenses.

Iowa police attend an advanced class for OWI arrests

Police in Iowa are always on the lookout for drivers they believe may be intoxicated. Officers get extensive legal and practical training in their unceasing search for drivers operating while impaired. Periodically, news outlets will report various training sessions that police use to try to make officers better and more efficient at arresting suspected drunk drivers.

Just such a training session apparently happened a few weeks ago here in Iowa, according to news reports. The session's sponsors said that officers attended an advanced class that sought to make them completely proficient in administering field sobriety tests. Officers were also apparently trained in drug impaired driving and in estimating the blood alcohol content of drivers.

What defenses may exist for drug charges and other crimes?

Police obviously don't have free rein to arrest people and seize evidence to prosecute them. If police question suspects or seize evidence in a manner contrary to law or the Constitution, it could make the case fall apart. What defenses are available to Johnson County defendants charged with drug offenses or other crimes?

First, an obvious defense is that the defendant is not guilty of the crime. Either no crime was committed, or someone else committed it. Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime. If the prosecution fails to convince a judge or jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant must be found not guilty.

Student financial aid eligibility may be hurt by drug conviction

For over 50 years, federal student aid programs have helped Johnson County residents reach for their dreams through post-secondary education. Without the loan and grant programs available through federal financial aid, college could be out of reach for many. But as many already know, federal financial aid options may be curtailed for those convicted of drug-related offenses. Let's review how a drug-related conviction could interfere with the process of getting student aid.

If a student gets a drug-related conviction while receiving student aid, eligibility may be impacted for receiving aid in subsequent school years. As most students already know, in order to get federal student aid, a student must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The FAFSA form contains a question asking whether the student has had a drug conviction for an offense committed while receiving federal student aid.

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Should I take a breath test?
The most common question asked of criminal defense lawyers who work on Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Driving While...

Can I get a work permit or temporary restricted license in Iowa after losing my driving privileges for an OWI?
For a first offense, yes. The revocation is this instance is 180 days for an OWI test failure and one year for an OWI test refusal...

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J. Dean Keegan, Eric D. Tindal & Andrea Mason Attorneys At Law
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Iowa City, IA 52240

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J. Dean Keegan, Eric D. Tindal & Andrea Mason Attorneys At Law
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Cedar Rapids, IA 52406

Phone: 319-364-6000
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