Iowa Criminal Law Bulletin

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According to information provided by Iowa Legal Aid on Domestic Abuse, one in four women will be a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives.  Even more staggering is the fact that over 6,300 reports of domestic violence were made in 2009 alone.  These statistics are shocking to most people.  Domestic assault is a very serious charge and carries extremely serious penalties.  If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse or has been charged with domestic assault in Iowa, it is important to seek competent legal advice and representation as soon as possible.

Domestic Abuse in the Iowa Code

Iowa Code 708.2A address domestic abuse.  It is defined as “a harmful touching or doing something that puts another in immediate physical fear such as pointing a weapon at that person.”  In order to be categorized as a domestic assault as opposed to regular assault, the assault must occur between people where one of the following relationships exist:

  • Family or household members living together at the time of the assault;
  • Married persons, including juveniles who are married;
  • Separated spouses or persons divorced from each other, including juveniles who are or were married;
  • Juveniles and adult biological parents of the same minor child regardless of whether they have ever lived together;
  • Unmarried persons who are co-habitating – co-habitation does not require a sexual relationship but does require something more than merely residing together; or
  • Persons who have lived together within the past year but were not living together at the time of the assault.
  • Persons involved in a dating relationship are not covered under Iowa’s criminal domestic abuse law.  However, if a person in a dating relationship assaults his or her intimate partner and is found guilty, the judge can order that person to attend the Batterers Education Program.

Police Response to Domestic Abuse

HandcuffsIf a report of domestic violence has been made to police, the police have a duty to protect the victim of the abuse.  When a report has been made and there is probable cause to believe that a domestic assault has occurred, in Iowa, a police officer MUST arrest someone if:

  •  The assault resulted in bodily injury to a victim, or
  • The assault was committed by someone intended to seriously injure the victim, or
  • A dangerous weapon was used or displayed in connection with the assault, or
  • The abuser is in violation of an order issued under the domestic abuse statute, a divorce action, or a criminal action.

The police MAY arrest if the officer investigates and has probable cause to believe that domestic assault was committed, although no injury resulted to the victim.

Help for Victims

There are numerous legal actions and resources to aid victims of domestic abuse in Iowa.  Chapter 236 of the Iowa Code, Iowa’s Domestic Abuse Act, protective orders and various anti-domestic violence organizations have been created to assist victims.  Look for more information on these tools in future Iowa Criminal Law Bulletin entries.

One of the most common criminal infractions in Iowa is driving a vehicle while your driver’s license has been denied, revoked, suspended, or you are barred from driving.  This offense is so common most likely because of the importance of driving in daily life.  Driving is essential to most people’s daily routines of working and family life.  Refraining from driving while you are not legally permitted to drive can be extremely difficult and can carry some very steep penalties if caught and convicted.

Driving While License is Denied, Revoked, Suspended or Barred in Iowa

Iowa Code Section 321J.21 describes the penalties for this act.  Let’s take a closer look at the statute:

IA Code 321J.21(1) states:

A person whose driver’s license or nonresident operating privilege has been suspended, denied, revoked, or barred due to a violation of this chapter and who drives a motor vehicle while the license or privilege is suspended, denied, revoked, or barred commits a serious misdemeanor.  In addition to any other penalties, the punishment imposed for a violation of this subsection shall include assessment of a fine of one thousand dollars.

Simply put, you will, among any other penalties, be fined $1,000 for driving while barred.  This is a sizable fine that many people would not easily be able to afford.

The second portion of the statute states:

In addition to the fine, the department, upon receiving the record of the conviction of a person under this section upon a charge of driving a motor vehicle while the license of the person was suspended, denied, revoked, or barred shall extend the period of suspension, denial, revocation, or bar for an additional like period, and the department shall not issue a new license during the additional period.

In other words, if you are convicted of driving while barred, you will have your period of suspension extended and will not be able to receive a new license during that time.

Serious Misdemeanor

Also included in the first portion of IA Code 321J is a statement that the crime of driving while barred is considered a serious misdemeanor.  In Iowa, there are two categories of crimes: misdemeanors and felonies. Further, misdemeanors are then separated into three categories: simple, serious, and aggravated.  The penalty for conviction generally increases in severity with the level of offense.

Iowa Department of Motor Vehicle Information on Driving While Barred

The Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles website states that a conviction of driving while barred carries with it a possible fine of $1,500 and up to one year in jail.  They also state, as does the controlling statute, that the period of time that the license has been suspended or revoked may be doubled.  They will not issue a work permit during the suspension.

Habitual Offender

You will be considered an habitual offender and will be barred from driving for two to six years if you receive three or more of any combination of the following convictions in a six-year period:

  • manslaughter with a motor vehicle;
  • conviction of operating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (Iowa Code Chapter 321J);
  • conviction for driving while your license is suspended, revoked or barred; eluding or attempting to elude pursuing law enforcement vehicles; or serious injury by vehicle;
  • failure to stop and leave information or render aid at the scene of an accident in which you were involved as required by Iowa Code 321.263

As you can see, driving while your license is suspended, revoked, denied or you are otherwise barred from driving can result in substantial fines and penalties.  If you find yourself charged with this offense, it is important to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible.