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Frequently Asked Questions

If you were charged for a criminal offense in Iowa, or suspect you may soon be, you likely have a long list of questions concerning your future and defense options. At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., we understand the immense stress facing you and your loved ones after an arrest. We have prepared this page and content throughout this website to help you gain valuable insight.

We also invite you to contact our firm to discuss your case and any questions you may have with a highly qualified Des Moines criminal defense lawyer. Please call (888) 317-4978 or send an online message to schedule your free initial consultation and case review today.


Iowa Criminal Defense FAQ


Question
If the police pull me over and ask if I have been drinking, how should I answer them?

Answer
The law states that you have a legal right not to make any statements to the police that may incriminate you.  You are perfectly within your rights to ask to speak to an attorney before answering any type of police questioning.  But if the officer instructs you to show your license, registration and insurance information, you must do so and you should act in a courteous and respectful manner.


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Question
What if I refuse a field sobriety test?

Answer
If you refuse to take a field sobriety test and are later convicted of DUI or OWI, you will face harsher penalties.


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Question
If my BAC is below the legal limit, can I still be in trouble?

Answer
Yes. It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while your faculties are in any way impaired by drugs or alcohol.  If your charges are not dropped, you need an attorney who can help you handle this complex scenario.


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Question
Does the car I am in have to be moving in order for me to be guilty of DUI?

Answer
No. You can be found guilty if you had the capability and power to operate the vehicle when you were legally under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For example, if you are drunk while sitting at the wheel with the keys in the ignition, you may be arrested for DUI.


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Question
Is it possible to be prosecuted for an attempt to commit a crime?

Answer
There are statutes in many jurisdictions which make the attempt of crimes like robbery or murder a crime. These statutes are intended to punish individuals who have demonstrated the intent to commit a crime, regardless of whether that crime occurred. Conviction for an attempted crime requires the government to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person charged had the intent to commit the crime or create a situation that would amount to that crime, and that the person took steps beyond merely preparing to commit the crime.


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Question
What is a grand jury?

Answer
In some cases and jurisdictions, the prosecutor is entitled to call a grand jury to gather information about a criminal case. The grand jury listens to testimony and examines evidence. During these proceedings, the prosecutor coordinates the testimony and introduction of evidence, and provides legal advice. The grand jury then decides whether there is enough information to put a defendant on trial.


Question
How is probation different from parole?  

Answer
Parole and probation are both terms used for punitive measures after the conclusion of a trial. Parole is the release of an individual from prison, on the condition that the individual is supervised by a court officer. Probation is a criminal sentence not connected to imprisonment. Probation is often the sentence for a first offense or a less serious offense. An individual on probation must generally meet certain terms and conditions to stay within the community.


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Question
What is restitution?  

Answer
Restitution requires a defendant to pay monetary damages to the victim or the victim’s next of kin. This money is intended as compensation for medical bills, property damage, and other costs the victim incurs as the result of a crime. The federal Mandatory Victims' Restitution Act of 1996 requires restitution for violent crimes and some non-violent crimes. Many other state and federal laws also require restitution.


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Question
Who is a prosecutor?  

Answer
A prosecutor is an attorney employed by the government. Prosecutors are responsible for presenting the government’s case against a defendant, or person charged with a crime. The government must investigate, arrest, and charge a defendant, and then bring the defendant to trial. Depending on the government body for which they work, a prosecutor may be called a city attorney, a county attorney, a state’s attorney, or a district attorney.


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Question
How does a prosecutor decide whether to charge an individual with a crime?  

Answer
There are three main considerations. The first is that the case against an individual is sound. The law must be clearly defined, and there must be no defects such as a violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights or the destruction of evidence. The second is that there must be enough evidence against the defendant to make a conviction probable. The third consideration is whether the case matches the objectives of the prosecutor’s office. In some cases, a more informal resolution may be appropriate.


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Question
What is a white collar crime?  

Answer
Originally, a white collar crime was one committed by an upper-class individual (or someone who wore a “white collar” to work). The modern definition does not focus on the class of the individual, but on the type of crime. These generally include fraud or deception to gain property, money, or a business advantage. While these crimes are non-violent, they can have a tremendous impact. For example, the S&L scandal of the 1990s cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.


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Question
Is it possible to prosecute a child who commits a crime in the same way an adult would be prosecuted?  

Answer
In most cases, children who commit crimes are subject to the juvenile court system, a separate judicial system which emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment. However, children who commit serious crimes can be charged as adults. They will then be tried and punished through the regular judicial system.


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Question
If I’m innocent, should I still get a lawyer?  

Answer
Even if you’re innocent, it’s possible that you could be convicted of a crime. Every defendant needs representation to ensure that they protect their legal rights.


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Question
Do I need a lawyer if I intend to plead guilty?  

Answer
A lawyer can help you to reduce your sentence and increase the opportunities available to you. Whether or not you are guilty, you have inalienable constitutional rights, and your defense attorney can help to protect and preserve them.


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