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Are Arrest Records Public in Iowa?

The Iowa Open Records Law makes Iowa arrest records public information and available to interested persons. Such persons may get the arrest records from the particular arresting agency that carried out the arrest. The police department or local Sheriff’s office is the usual arresting agency at the county level. Physical copies of arrest records are also available in the archives of a state government agency or a circuit court.

What is Considered an Arrest Record in Iowa?

An arrest record in Iowa is a compilation of information on the arrest or detention of a person regarding a criminal offense. It is a public document maintained by law enforcement agencies in Iowa, such as the Iowa State Patrol. After a person’s arrest, these agencies generate these records to provide details on the apprehension and taking-in-to-custody of the person.

The presence of an arrest record is not conclusive proof that the suspect committed or was part of the commission of the alleged crime. Rather, it describes the incident, the suspect’s details, and other relevant information. Hence, an arrest record cannot be used as an alternative to an Iowa criminal record. Nonetheless, in Iowa, an arrest record is crucial in a criminal matter; it plays a vital role in the trial that may follow from the arrest.

Law enforcement agencies in Iowa have the authority to arrest persons suspected of committing a crime in the state. The arresting officer then creates a report in the suspect’s name, detailing the particulars of the crime and circumstances surrounding the arrest and booking. This official report is an ‘arrest record,’ which may lead to a trial and possible criminal indictment unless there are circumstances to show that the accused did not commit the offense.

What Shows Up on an Iowa Arrest Record?

As a written account of a person’s apprehension by law enforcement, an arrest record contains the following information:

  • A Physical Description of the Suspect: An arrest record in Iowa details the suspect’s height, weight, hair color, and race. It also includes other distinct features of the suspect, like birthmarks, tattoos, or scars.
  • Account of the Incident: A typical arrest record provides a description of the alleged crime based on first-hand witness or victim statements.
  • Vital Personal Data of the Suspect: Arrest records contain the suspect’s age, name, date of birth, phone number, and address. A searcher may find other personal information in an arrest record like the suspect’s Social Security Number (SSN), alias(es), and other contact information.
  • The Type of Charge: Arrest records generally specify the category or classification of crime, whether a minor violation or infraction, a misdemeanor, or a felony.
  • Booking Information: The date and location of the arrest, fingerprints, charges filed, photographs, and bail amount (if any). It also contains court dates, details of the police interrogation, and the type of charge filed against the suspect.

Who Can Access Arrest Records in Iowa?

Given that arrest records are public documents in Iowa, any person can access them upon request. Such interested persons are often employers conducting a background check, insurance companies, or even the named suspect. Other interested parties include lawyers, government agencies, and victim(s). The arresting agency in charge may, however, refuse to grant public access to arrest records in certain circumstances:

  • Where releasing the document or record will affect an open criminal investigation.
  • If disclosing the arrest record will put a third party at risk.
  • Where the named suspect is a juvenile, the agency may refuse to release the document without a court order unless it is to the parent(s) of the suspect or some other entitled party.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) also limits a person’s right to access arrest records and other records, if any the following exceptions apply:

  • The record contains classified information necessary to protect national security.
  • If a federal law prohibits the release of that information, the record is exempt from public viewing.
  • The record contains confidential trade secrets or financial information.
  • The record contains privileged, confidential exchanges between two agencies.
  • Where the release of the information may pose a danger to another person’s privacy
  • If the information in the record is reserved for law enforcement purposes in a court case or an investigation or may reveal a confidential source, individuals may not access it.

Iowa Arrest Statistics

The Iowa Department of Public Safety allows residents to access arrest data through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. The Department's Arrest Summary Report revealed about 65,615 persons were arrested in 2021. This was 4.84% (68,950), lesser than the 2020 report. It was recorded that 59,100 of the arrestees in 2021 were adults, and 6,514 were juveniles. The offenses committed by the arrested persons were divided into Group A and Group B. Group A offenses totaled 34,289, and Group B totaled 31,326. Here is the breakdown of the offenses with the highest arrest rates:

  • Aggravated Assault - 3,700
  • Burglary - 1,035
  • Larceny - 5,173
  • Simple Assault - 7,087
  • Vandalism - 1,865
  • Drug/Narcotic Violations - 8,335
  • Drug Equipment Violations - 2,283
  • DUI -8,758
  • Drunkenness - 2,833
  • Liquor Law Violations - 1,493
  • Trespass - 1,296
  • All Other Offenses - 15,751

Obtaining Iowa Public Arrest Records

An Iowa arrest record search allows individuals access arrest information that is publicly available unless exempted by law. Examples of confidential arrest records are juvenile records and arrest records whose disclosure will jeopardize an ongoing investigation or pose a clear and present danger to a person’s safety. The Iowa Open Records Law allows for the release or dissemination of arrest records to the public by law enforcement agencies in the state. Therefore, a requester can conduct an arrest record search online, in writing, by telephone, or in person at the appropriate record custodian's office.

How Do I Lookup Someone’s Arrest Records in Iowa?

The standard procedure for obtaining arrest records is to visit local law enforcement agencies. These agencies are often the record custodians. If the record is one that the agency can grant access to, the requester may get free access to it and only pay copying fees. The Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Investigation, is still developing a Criminal History Record Check website. As of October 2021, the website is still offline, undergoing an upgrade process.

Alternatively, individuals may request criminal history and arrest records in-person or via mail and pay a $15 fee. To request another person’s records, the signed authorization of the person is a requirement; otherwise, the searcher will only get records of the past 18 months. Interested persons may follow the following procedures to submit a request:

Mail Requests: First, download and complete the Criminal History Request Form. After that, download and fill a Criminal History Billing Form. Even if the search involves multiple criminal histories, only one form is necessary. Next, attach the prescribed payment and mail it alongside the forms to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Support Operations Bureau 1st Floor, 215 E 7th St, Des Moines, IA 50319. Individuals may also send requests via fax to (515) 725-6080.

In-Person Requests: The required documentation to submit a criminal history information request in person is a government-issued photo ID. An interested person may take the ID to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Support Operations Bureau 1st Floor, 215 E 7th St, Des Moines IA 50319 during business hours, which are Mondays to Fridays, 8 AM - 4 PM. Immediate results only apply if the requester is the named suspect. All other interested parties may have to wait a little while.

How to Subpoena Arrest Records in Iowa

It is common practice in Iowa for the public to have access to law enforcement records. This includes information on the date, time, location, facts, and circumstances of a crime or incident. A searcher does not need to know about a crime or incident to request information about it. The need for a subpoena only arises where the relevant law enforcement agency refuses to disclose the arrest record.

A subpoena is a court order that demands the presence of a person in court or that the person provides certain documents. Chapter Two of the Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure provides for subpoena requirements in Iowa. Only an adult may serve a subpoena order in any part of the state.

How to Search for an Inmate in the Iowa Prison System

The Iowa Department of Corrections manages all correctional facilities and incarcerated persons within the state. These facilities include state prisons, county detention centers, and jails. To find an inmate in the Iowa prison system, interested persons may use the Offender Search Tool on the Department of Corrections website. The searcher must fill in some necessary information in the required fields to complete the search.

These details include the offender’s first, middle, or last name, birth date, gender, location, and offense. Others are the offender number and county of commitment. After providing this information, click the ‘Find’ button. The search will display the criminal information of the inmate, like the inmate’s charges, court information, booking details, bail conditions, and possible release date.

How Do I Find Out if Someone Was in Jail in Iowa

The Iowa Department of Corrections website does not contain details of past prisoners. Instead, it provides information on currently incarcerated inmates. There is also no central database for persons who have completed a prison sentence in Iowa. Interested persons may have to visit the courthouses for court proceedings and other records that will show if a person was sentenced and convicted for an offense. Alternatively, the individual may visit the police department or local sheriff’s office to make inquiries.

How to Find Recent Arrests in Iowa

County Sheriff’s Offices in Iowa are the repositories for arrest records. Therefore, anyone can request recent arrest information online or in person at the Sheriff’s Office in the county where the arrest occurred. For example, Polk County Sheriff's Office provides access to arrest information through the Current Inmate Listing and Bookings Previous 24 hours links on their website. These links provide a list of individuals who have been arrested within 24 hours and the total list of individuals currently in custody. A requester can click on the view link beside each arrestee’s name to view their arrest information.

Likewise, individuals can find recent arrests by using the Inmate Search tool on the Linn County Sheriff’s Office website. Upon clicking on the tool, a list of individuals arrested in Linn County appears. Requesters can use the search box at the top right side of the page to find an arrested person. The list of arrest information can be copied, downloaded, or saved in any format.

How Long Do Iowa Arrest Records Stay on File?

There is no provision for how long a person’s arrest record can stay on file. As arrest records are public documents, they may remain part of a person’s public record for a long time, even for life. The only way to remove an arrest record from official reports is to expunge or seal the records.

Are Arrest Reports Public in Iowa?

An arrest report is a record provided by a law enforcement agency that contains the arrest, detention, or confinement incident and charge details of an individual. They provide insight into the nature of an arrest, the people involved (the officer, the arrested person, and witnesses), and the circumstances surrounding the arrest. An arrest report helps in an investigation and can be used as evidence in a criminal proceeding. Generally, arrest reports are restricted, but some information in them can be used to generate arrest records. Arrest records are legal documents that provide details about people’s criminal histories. They are public records, so they can be inspected or copied by members of the public.

How to Obtain Arrest Records for Free in Iowa?

To view arrest records for free, interested persons may visit the free online portal for this service. Since the portal is not yet up, individuals may alternatively visit local law enforcement agencies or sheriff offices to request these documents. However, getting the records at these places may come at a small cost for copying fees and other authentication services. Alternatively, individuals may use third-party sites that allow free access to check arrest records in Iowa. The only catch is that these third-party sites are not affiliated with Iowa law enforcement agencies. As a result, there is no way to verify that the information a person may get off these sites is accurate.

How to Search for an Iowa Arrest Record Online Using a Third-Party Search Service

The need for third-party search services arises when tracking down physical copies of arrest records proves difficult. Going online becomes a viable option, and there is a great number of online services that allow individuals to search for Iowa arrest records and other public records. These sites scan through and source information from various government agencies in exchange for a fee the searcher must pay.

To use a third-party service, the searcher must input the preferred site into an online browser. Then, provide the necessary details to facilitate the search, like the name and physical description of the person named in the arrest record. Even though searchers may pay a fee to use these services, it is convenient to get arrest records in Iowa.

It bypasses the long processing hours and inconsistent service common with government agencies. Third-party sites like an online background system avoid these typically extended delays.

How to Correct an Arrest Record in Iowa?

Standard arrest records contain accurate information on a person’s alleged crime and arrest. However, errors may appear on a person’s arrest record, which may sometimes be in the form of inaccurate or incomplete information. To address this, the person may challenge the information by sending a written request via mail to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations. Individuals may also appear in person to submit a challenge request.

However, before choosing to challenge the information on an arrest record, it is best to confirm an actual error exists in the first place. The individual may request a copy of the arrest record to make this confirmation. Once the error is certain, such an individual needs to gather supporting documents to serve as evidence of the inaccuracy. These supporting documents may be a copy of the arrest or court records. The individual may attach the documents to the application or hold on till the Department of Criminal Investigation demands it.

How to Expunge Arrest Records in Iowa

Iowa laws ensure that many criminal records stay available for public viewing. However, this can cause problems for the person named in the record, as these records are accessible by interested parties. These parties are anyone from a landlord to a spouse, friends, or even a future employer. The only way to get criminal or arrest records away from public viewing is to have them erased.

An expungement in Iowa keeps the record separate and in a secure database, unavailable to public sources. Whether or not a person can expunge a record in Iowa depends on the class or category of the offense. If a person meets the qualification requirements and applies to the courts, the court may enter an order to expunge the records. A person may apply for an expungement order in the following circumstance:

Deferred Judgements: Under Section § 907.9 of the Iowa Code, when a person pleads guilty to an offense, the court may, in certain circumstances, allow a deferred judgment. After the person completes probation and pays all costs related to the case, the court may expunge its case records. However, an individual with an expunged record may waive its confidentiality. For instance, some job applications ask prospective employees to allow a Department of Correction check, and if permission is granted, the department will disclose the deferred judgment to the employer.

Dismissal or Acquittals: If the case resulted in a discharge or acquittal, the court under Section § 901C.2 of the Iowa Code might enter an order expunging the record. The following conditions must first be met:

  • The applicant must pay all court costs and other financial obligations relating to the matter.
  • About 180 days must have passed since the acquittal or dismissal, but the court may waive this requirement if there is a good cause, like identity theft or mistaken identity.
  • The defendant in the matter was not competent to stand trial.
  • The charge must also be for a public offense, excluding dismissed nonindictable traffic violations and other offenses charged under local traffic ordinances.

For an expungement application under this heading to succeed, all the counts in the charge must be dismissed/acquitted. If a person has multiple counts and all but one were dismissed, the case is not eligible for expungement.

Public Intoxication, Possession of Alcohol Under the Legal Age and Certain Prostitution Cases: A person convicted of these offenses, under Sections §§ 123.46(6), 123.47(8), 725.1 of the Iowa Code is eligible for expungement; provided that the person receives no other criminal convictions for two years after the conviction, other than minor or misdemeanor traffic offenses. The court will expunge the relevant record once the individual makes an application, and unlike other forms of expungement, the person does not need to pay fines and fees in this case.

Other Misdemeanor Convictions: As part of a broader criminal law reform package, § 901C.3 of the Iowa Code, enacted in 2019, allows the expungement of one misdemeanor conviction in a person’s lifetime. The law has some other limitations, such as:

  • Eight years must have passed since the conviction.
  • The applicant must have no pending criminal charges.
  • A person with two previous deferred judgments is not eligible.
  • The person must pay all costs and court-ordered fees, and other fees imposed by the clerk (if any)

While expungement under this law is for only one expungement in a person’s lifetime, it does not apply to other types of expungement. So, a person with two expunged records for public intoxication convictions or dismissed cases can still use section 901C.3 to expunge another record, such as an assault conviction.

To apply for an expungement, a person must first locate the criminal record from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Then, complete an ‘Application to Expunge Court Record’ form. After this, submit the form to the court that handed down the conviction. To identify the particular court, interested persons may visit the Iowa Judicial Branch website for a Court Directory listing all Iowa courts. After applying, the court will review it and either grant or deny the expungement. Most times, this will involve a hearing.

Even after the court expunges a record, it still exists, but unauthorized third parties cannot access it. The record remains on a special list available to courts, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies. So, suppose the person gets a new charge. In that case, all relevant agencies are put on notice. The expunged record can lead to a higher level of supervision during and after trial and a tougher sentence after conviction.

If a person’s charge does not fit into any of the above requirements and there is no other way to obtain an expungement, the person may request the Governor to pardon the crime. Pardons in Iowa are rare and often apply to circumstances where the court proceedings were unfair and unjust.

However, interested persons may check the Governor’s Office website to fill an application form for a pardon. If the Governor issues a pardon, it does not remove the record of a person’s crime but shows on the online docket that the Governor granted a pardon on the charge. The pardon may improve a person’s chances of getting employment or housing, as having an active criminal record can make life difficult.

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