Initial Appearance

The Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure require that an officer making an arrest with or without a warrant shall take the arrested person without unnecessary delay before a committing magistrate. Usually this hearing takes place the morning following arrest, and may take place over a closed-circuit television system.

The magistrate holding this hearing will inform the defendant of his right to counsel, the defendant’s right to request court-appointed counsel if he is eligible, and the general circumstances under which the defendant may secure pretrial release. Usually pretrial release is secured by posting “bail” or “bond.” Often times in smaller crimes the magistrate will release a defendant without bail, or “release on his own recognizance.”

The magistrate will inform the defendant of his right to have the bond conditions reviewed, and a copy of the criminal complaint will be handed to the defendant.

The magistrate will state that anything the defendant says can be used against him, and that no statement needs to be made by the defendant regarding the circumstances of the crime.

The defendant may also be asked if the contact/personal information on the complaint is accurate and complete.

Sometimes the magistrate will ask the defendant if he wishes to plead guilty to the offenses. Before entering a guilty plea, it is always a good idea to discuss the case with an attorney practicing in criminal defense. When a guilty plea is entered, it should be considered final. It is very difficult, if possible at all, to withdraw a guilty plea.

At the initial appearance, the magistrate will inform the defendant of the date of his preliminary hearing.