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What is A Criminal Record in Iowa?

Criminal records, also known as rap sheets, are official documents that detail the criminal history information of persons within Iowa. This information is compiled from various administrative offices and law enforcement agencies across the state of Iowa. Criminal records typically contain personal and arrest data, details of court proceedings, and conviction information of the subject. However, the information available in public criminal records will depend primarily on the authority of the requesting party.

Criminal records in the state of Iowa generally comprise the following:

  • The full name and alias of the subject
  • A mugshot, set of fingerprints, and detailed description of unique identifiers such as tattoos, piercings, etc.
  • Race and/or ethnicity
  • Date of birth
  • Arrest data and outstanding warrants
  • Conviction history and pending dispositions

Are Criminal Records Public In Iowa?

Yes. Iowa criminal records are public information per the Iowa Open Records Law. The Division of Criminal Investigation is the record custodian of these documents. Interested persons may conduct a criminal record search online. The record custodian also provides access to requesters who schedule an in-person visit or send a mail request.

Criminal records, considered public in the United States, are made available through some third-party aggregate sites. Searching with third-party websites is often easier as the information is not limited to geographic record availability. Information found on third-party websites can serve as a jumping off point for parties searching for a specific record or multiple records. Typically, requesters must provide the following information to gain access to these records:

  • The record subject’s name, unless the subject is a juvenile.
  • The record subjects’ last known location, including cities, counties, and states.

Third-party websites offer these search services, but they are not government sponsored. Availability of records may vary.

How To Obtain Criminal Records In Iowa?

The Iowa Department of Public Safety serves as the central repository for criminal records in the state. Through its Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa DPS makes records available to the public in the form of a Criminal Background Report.

Since most criminal record sources often have varying protocols, organization, digitization, and retrieval requirements, the process of requesting these records generally varies from office to office. Law enforcement agencies within the state operate unique and mostly independent methods of generating and maintaining crime-related records or reports. Criminal records may also be obtained through local depositories or from the state DCI. Generally, requesters must pay a small fee when accessing these criminal records. Although the cost is nominal, free public criminal record checks are also possible. However, note that the information obtained from free databases is not reliable.

What Is An Arrest Record In Iowa?

Iowa arrest records are official documents that provide information about the apprehension and taking-into-custody of persons alleged to be involved in criminal activity. Arrests may be followed by indictments or trials, however, these records may not be considered as proof of the subject’s involvement in a crime unless accompanied by a criminal record and account of the suspect’s charges. Arrest records typically feature details of the alleged crime as well as:

  • The personal data of the subject: their name, birth date, fingerprint, race, etc.
  • Date and place of the arrest
  • The name of the arresting officer
  • The address of the detention center or jail
  • Case status
  • The name of the issuer of the arrest warrant.

In Iowa, police records and police reports differ from arrest records. Arrest records include information about arrests as it applies to a single party. Police records include arrests, but track a wider range of police actions.

Are Arrest Records Public In Iowa?

Yes. Iowa arrest records are public information per the Iowa Open Records Law. Interested persons may obtain the arrest record from the arresting agency. At the county level, this is often the local Sheriff’s office or the police department.

Meanwhile, note that the arresting agency may not release an arrest record if public disclosure of the document will sabotage an active criminal investigation. Also, suppose disclosing the arrest record will put a third party at a security risk. In that case, the arresting agency will not grant public access to the document.

If an arrest record is open to the public, the record custodian will charge requesters the fee for duplicating the documents. A requester may still get free arrest records, especially if the agency determines that releasing the record will serve the public’s interest. Otherwise, the requester must pay the full copying fees to get this police record or person an arrest search on databases that aggregate public arrest records. However, note that such databases are not affiliated with law enforcement in Iowa. Thus, the accuracy and completeness of the arrest record are not guaranteed.

What Is An Arrest Warrant In Iowa?

An Iowa state arrest warrant is a court-issued order providing law enforcement agencies with legal authority to apprehend criminal suspects. Warrants are generally issued by the judiciary of the local or state jurisdiction where the suspect is located and are typically rendered invalid outside the issuing jurisdiction. Once obtained, law enforcement agencies may arrest the person(s) named on the document. In addition to the name of the suspect, an Iowa state warrant also details:

  • Personal information of the subject
  • The alleged criminal offense
  • The place and date that the arrest may ensue
  • The expiry date of the warrant
  • Issuer/the date it was issued
  • Terms of bail/bond

In the state of Iowa, arrests may be made without a warrant if the suspect stands charged with a crime punishable by at least one year. Arrests may also be made without warrants if a law enforcement agent is a witness to the criminal offense. Sheriff departments typically publish a list of active warrants on their websites. Interested persons may conduct a warrant search on the website using the wanted person’s name.

What Are Inmate Records In Iowa?

Iowa inmate records are official documents pertaining to a person’s current and former incarceration status. It may also refer to the facility and prisoner-related data generated and maintained by various correctional institutions throughout the state. The Iowa Department of Corrections maintains and disseminates publicly available inmate records through their online database. Generally, a name-based inmate search will provide the following information:

  • Details of the facility location, housing capacity, etc.
  • Full name and aliases of inmates
  • Birthdate, nationality, gender, and other personal data inmates
  • Criminal indictments of incarcerated persons
  • Mugshots, fingerprints, and biological information of the prisoners.

Meanwhile, jail records are documents that law enforcement maintains on persons serving time in the county or city jail. These documents are also available to public requesters. But unlike inmate records, requesters must visit the local jail in person to obtain jail records. If the Sheriff’s Office maintains an online database for jail records, a requester may lookup an inmate online first.

What Is The Iowa Sex Offender Registry?

Iowa sex offender registry is a public-access database of relevant information pertaining to sex offenders in Iowa. Following the enactment of the sex offender registration law, all persons convicted of sex-related crimes must be duly registered, and all information regarding offenders is public record. Thus, local and state law enforcement agencies operate sex offender registries featuring the personal data, location, and compliance status of offenders in their jurisdiction.

Similarly, all information regarding registered sex offenders is published on city and county compiled sex offender registries per Megan’s Law. The Iowa Megan’s law was adopted in 1996 following the molestation and murder of 7-year-old Megan Kanka. This law requires that relevant information regarding sex offenders must be published in order to protect the public. In light of this, the state of Iowa mandates the registration for persons convicted of any sex offense. Offenders are generally classified by the severity of their offense into tier I, tier II, or Tier III offenses. Registration is also compulsory for offenders regardless of residency status. Where an offender is an out-of-state offender, the individual must register on other jurisdiction’s sex offender registry as well. At the national level, the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website also lists persons who commit crimes motivated by sexual acts or sexual abuse in Iowa.

What is an OWI in Iowa?

An OWI in Iowa is often associated with drunk driving. OWIs are serious traffic violations defined as operating a vehicle while under the influence. Influence refers to consuming alcohol, controlled substances, and even prescription drugs that can impair a person’s driving abilities (Iowa Code § 321J.2).

Generally, law enforcement can charge a person with impaired driving if the driver’s breath or blood alcohol content (BAC) is above 0.08. Likewise, a driver may face OWI charges if there is an open container of alcohol in the car at the time of the traffic stop.

The consequences of an OWI in Iowa depend on the driver and circumstances surrounding the offense. Generally, the Iowa Department of Transportation shall award four (4) penalty points against the driver’s license and suspend the driver’s license for at least 180 days. Next, the driver must appear at a court hearing to determine guilt. Most drivers get an OWI lawyer at this stage or choose self-representation.

Either way, the court shall consider the charges and determine the driver’s guilt. If found guilty, first-time OWI drivers face jail time, court fines, and license revocation. The court may also order the driver to install an ignition interlock device and complete a substance abuse treatment program. The Department of Transportation has an OWI pamphlet for drivers facing OWI charges in Iowa.

What Are Misdemeanors In Iowa?

Misdemeanors are non-indictable offenses that are considered minor wrongdoings according to U.S. law. In the state of Iowa, they are classified as aggravated, serious, minor, and scheduled violations in decreasing order of severity. Misdemeanors attract jail time of at least 30 days, probation sentences, community service, and fines of various amounts/lengths depending on the offense. They include:

  • Aggravated misdemeanor: Prostitution, indecent exposure, unlicensed weapon possession
  • Serious misdemeanor: drug possession, domestic abuse, assault resulting in physical or mental illness
  • Minor misdemeanor: trespassing, possession of drug paraphernalia

What Are Felonies In Iowa?

Felonies are the most serious criminal offenses in the state of Iowa and are punishable by up to one year incarceration and a maximum of a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole. In Iowa, criminal offenses are classified in descending order of severity into Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D felonies. Felonies with no designation will be considered a Class D felony by definition and a variety of recurring misdemeanors such as drug possession and OWI will constitute a felony after at least 3 related convictions. Examples include:

  • Class A felonies: first-degree murder, sexual assault resulting in serious injury
  • Class B felonies: felony drug offenses, second-degree murder/manslaughter, burglary
  • Class C felonies: theft of property worth at least $10,000
  • Class D felonies: cultivation of more than 50kg of marijuana

How To Obtain Parole Information In Iowa

Iowa Parole records are official documents that provide information regarding the provisional release of a prisoner who agrees to certain parole conditions before completion of the maximum sentence period. As per code § 910.5 of the Iowa state law, offenders who are placed on parole are required to pay restitution as a condition of parole. The restitution plan should be made considering the offender’s income, physical and mental health, education, employment, and family circumstances. Failure of the offender to comply with the restitution plan of payment, including a community service requirement, will constitute a violation of a condition of parole. After the expiration of the offender’s sentence, the failure of an offender to comply with the plan of restitution ordered by the court will constitute contempt of court.

Other information pertaining to Iowa parole conditions and processes may be found on the Iowa Board of Parole website. All annual reports, board agenda, meeting minutes, and administrative units are published on the site and available for public viewing. In addition, the site features an offender search tool that may be used to obtain information regarding recent parole-related updates of an inmate. Offenders may be searched by their name or designated offender number.

What Are Probation Records In Iowa?

Probation records in the state of Iowa are official documents that indicate that a prisoner of the state may serve their sentence outside detention but under supervision. Probation sentences are often issued as an alternative to prison and are offered on the condition that the inmate strictly adheres to the probation conditions imposed by the judge and/or probation officer. The span of the probation, as well as any other condition, is issued in proportion to the crime by the Iowa Board of Parole. While conditions may vary depending on the offender and their criminal charges, most inmates in probation will be required to report to a probation officer frequently as well as remain in a specified vicinity, pay any applicable fines and attend mandatory counseling (if applicable) 

Probation records may be available to interested members of the public unless restricted or rendered confidential by a court order. In either case, these records may be accessed by querying the Parole board. However, the requestor may be required to provide a subpoena to view closed records.

What Are Juvenile Criminal Records In Iowa?

Iowa juvenile criminal records are a compilation of official reports and records pertaining to the criminal activity of underaged persons. Contrary to common practice, these were public records in the state of Iowa until 2016 when juvenile delinquency cases became confidential. Accused juveniles found guilty of their charges are termed adjudicated rather than convicted. However, these records may not be accessed by members of the public unless the public’s interest is at stake, the case is still open or the juvenile is a recurrent offender.

Adjudicated delinquents may request that these records be sealed by petitioning the state DPS or court. If approved, the petition will order the record sealed and entirely inaccessible to the public. However, unless expunged, juvenile criminal records will likely appear in public background checks. Nonetheless, persons found to be adjudicated delinquent to a criminal offense, do not have to respond “yes” if asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime.

What Is A Conviction Record In Iowa?

Iowa state conviction records are official documents that feature the criminal history of an individual and the jail term(s) served as a consequence. This document details the alleged offense, the convict’s plea at the time of the court proceedings, and the judgment delivered. The information contained in the record is also included on a criminal record along with arrest information and details of disposition. However, conviction records only include information regarding cases where the subject was found to be guilty of the crime.

Conviction records also include the personal data of the accused, details of the indictment and the final judgment of the court as well as any fines, sentences, community service, and mandatory counseling sentences that resulted. The record also includes details of dishonorable discharges, probation, and parole. However, judgments that are reversed or pardoned may be excluded from the record.

Iowa History And Accuracy Of Criminal Records

Until the recent technological advancements in record generation and management, record keeping in the state of Iowa was largely manual. In recent years, with the State Archives of Iowa adopting digitized methods of record organization and storage, criminal records, as well as a variety of crime-related data and reports, are better preserved in a hassle-free system. The state archives go back into the earlier years of record compilation and organization. Thankfully, access to these records is not hindered by the former archaic record management and retrieval purposes and accuracy is better assured following the automated storage processes adopted.


Iowa State Archives

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