Iowa Stand Your Ground Defense Rejected

stand ground law

STAND YOUR GROUND DEFENSE REJECTED

A Johnson County judge rejected defendant Lamar Wilson’s “stand your ground” defense in one of the first publicized uses of the defense since the law was enacted in 2017.  The State charged Wilson in a fatal shooting at the pedestrian mall in Iowa City. A jury convicted him of manslaughter for killing 22 year old Kaleek Jones. Wilson asserted the stand your ground law as a defense but Judge Paul Miller rejected it finding the law unconstitutional as applied to Wilson. Miller found the law was void because it was too vague to apply in Wilson’s case. This case will likely eventually wind up in the Iowa Supreme Court.

WHAT IS STAND YOUR GROUND?

Iowa Code § 704.13 grants criminal and civil immunity to individuals justified in using reasonable force against an aggressor.  Another controversial change to Chapter 704 allows a person to be wrong to in their decision to use force in self-defense, so long as their belief that the force was necessary was reasonable.  Under the law, judges can consider the subjective belief of the defendant in determining whether force was justified in the situation.

Stand your ground is a version of the affirmative defense known as self-defense. Self-defense is an affirmative defense that must be raised by the defendant prior to trial. Stand your ground is a “use it or lose it” defense. An attorney must raise the defense at the proper time, or the prosecution may later object to it.  It is critical to evaluate the use of an affirmative defense from the outset of a criminal case. Look for a follow up blog post detailing Iowa’s stand your ground law.

STOWERS AND SARCONE: STAND YOUR GROUND LAWYERS

Charged with a crime? The experienced attorneys at Stowers and Sarcone, PLC can assess all possible defenses you may have.  It is critical that a knowledgeable attorney assess your case at the earliest possible moment.  Contact us today at 5152247446.

Iowa Appellate Lawyers: How to Appeal Your Iowa Conviction

Iowa Supreme Court of Appeals

IOWA APPEALS AND APPELLATE LAWYERS

Criminal appeals can be complicated business. Choosing a lawyer with appellate experience is important. An appeal is not a retrial. There are no hearings, no juries and no new evidence. An appeal is merely an opportunity for a higher court to correct any legal errors which may have occurred in the trial court. Iowa has two courts of appeals:

The Iowa Court of Appeals is an intermediate appellate court. This means every decision of the Iowa Court of Appeals is reviewable by the Iowa Supreme Court.

HOW TO APPEAL YOUR CASE

All appeals originate in the Iowa Supreme Court. To appeal an Iowa conviction you must file a notice of appeal with the Iowa Supreme Court no more than 30 days after sentencing. After this notice is filed, a certificate, stating among other things the issues presented for appeal, must be filed. The Iowa Supreme Court then sets a briefing schedule. The party appealing submits the first appellate brief. Then, the non-appealing party files their brief. Finally, the appealing party may file a rebuttal brief. Appellate briefs are subject to strict formatting, length and content requirements. The briefs are based on the “record” (transcripts and evidence from the trial court) and any caselaw or other authorities cited in support of a party’s argument.

EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL APPEALS

Appellate work is totally different from trial work. It requires a keen knowledge of existing caselaw and an ability to discern error from nothing but paper transcripts. It is tedious and time consuming. Appeals are often a client’s last line of defense so a good appellate lawyer is seriously important. At Stowers & Sarcone, PLC we pride ourselves on performing  high quality appellate work. We often achieve successful appellate outcomes, though each case is unique and results are not guaranteed. You can view summaries of some of our most successful appeals here.  You can also watch video of Nick and Dean at the Iowa Supreme Court by clicking on our names in this sentence.

If you or a loved one need an appellate lawyer call Stowers & Sarcone, PLC now! 515.224.7446.

Iowa Harassment Charges

iowa harassment charges

Iowa State Student Charged with First Degree Harassment

Story County authorities have charged an Iowa State student with first degree harassment, an aggravated misdemeanor, after the student made threatening comments online and one student said she felt unsafe.  Aggravated misdemeanors in Iowa are punishable be a fine of up to $6,250 and up to 2 years in prison.

Harassment is one of a small number of specific intent crimes in Iowa.  Specific intent crimes differ from general intent crimes in that they require the State to prove that not only did a defendant commit a certain act, but that the defendant intended the act to have a certain result.  In the context of harassment in Iowa, that means a defendant must commit an act with the intent to “intimidate, annoy, or alarm another person.”  This results in an ultimately more difficult case to make for prosecuting authorities.

Mental health treatment has been a topic of increased discussion in recent months with the onset of more frequent school shootings.  Iowa authorities have proposed a number of new initiatives to deal with the state’s mental health crisis.  Mental health problems may have a significant effect on the outcome of criminal cases regarding mentally ill defendants.  Specifically, mental issues may negate the intent element of specific intent crimes.

If you have been charged with a crime in Iowa, or you are a criminal defendant with mental health issues, ensure that your rights are being protected.  The experienced attorneys at Stowers and Sarcone can help you navigate the minefield of criminal charges and mental health treatment in Iowa.  Call us today at 515.224.7446.

Iowa Temporary Restricted License Law Change

TRL form

Temporary Restricted License Will Permit Restriction Free Driving

In Iowa, a temporary restricted license (a.k.a. work permit) maybe issued to an individual convicted of operating while intoxicated (OWI) or who failed/refused a breath alcohol test. Under current Iowa law, a temporary restricted license (TRL) restricts the places a person can drive. Those restricted places include, school (if attending personally), work, alcohol/drug treatment, daycare and court. Additionally, certain categories of OWI offenses require a “mandatory minimum” period of TRL ineligibility. However, a bill passed by the Iowa House removes all restrictions and all periods of ineligibility.

Under House File 2338 (HF 2338), an individual may drive any place, any time and for any reason on a TRL (resulting from an OWI test refusal, failure or conviction). HF 2338 also removes all periods of TRL ineligibility. The only caveat: an individual must install an ignition interlock device (blow and go) in their car. Ignition interlock devices prevent driving when alcohol is detected in the operator’s breath. HF 2338, now under consideration by the Iowa Senate, is expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Reynolds.

Multiple members of the Iowa Association for Justice (Nick Sarcone is Vice Chair of the Criminal Law Section) played a significant role drafting the legislation. IAJ, Stowers & Sarcone, PLC and the criminal defense bar have steadfastly supported the bill throughout the legislative process.

HF 2338 is a significant, beneficial change for Iowans. 

For example, under current Iowa law a single mother on a TRL cannot:

  • Take her children to school
  • Take her children to school activities
  • Go to the grocery store
  • Drive anywhere except work, court and medical appointments

These restrictions are less problematic in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids where city buses, uber and taxi cabs operate. But in towns like Newton, Maquoketa, Carroll, Grinnell, Denison, Oskaloosa, Estherville, Storm Lake, Glenwood and everywhere in between, where public transportation is minimal at best, this legislation will dramatically reduce driving while suspended offenses and improve lives. Under HF 2338 that mother can drive her kids anywhere if she installs an ignition interlock device. She will not suffer the embarrassment of needing her employer’s signature to get her TRL. She does not have to worry about being pulled over when she goes to the grocery store. She does not need to find a friend to take her kids to practice. Most importantly, the public is further protected from drunk driving because more people will operate legally and with ignition interlock devices.

These changes will be retroactive and permit a person currently driving on a TRL to drive restriction free when the bill becomes law. Use the sign up form on the right hand side to receive new blog posts via email and we will update you as the bill progresses through the legislative process.

If you or a loved one has been charged with OWI and needs legal assistance do not hesitate to call Stowers & Sarcone, PLC. Dean Stowers and Nick Sarcone stand ready to fight for your rights, defend your case and achieve the best possible outcome from a bad situation. Call now! 515.224.7446.

Is There A Warrant Out For Your Arrest?

is there a warrant for your arrest

 

Is there a warrant out for your arrest? Chances are you can’t find out on your own. Arrest warrants are sealed until they are executed. That means law enforcement cannot and will not tell you if you have an active arrest warrant. It also means your warrant will not appear on Iowa Courts Online. However, the lawyers at Stowers & Sarcone, PLC can often find out if you have an active arrest warrant. We utilize our sources within law enforcement and the prosecution to determine if there is an active warrant for your arrest. But finding the warrant is just the first step.

If you have an active arrest warrant we can help. There is no need for the cops to arrest you at your home or business. Instead, we can proactively handle the warrant by:

  • Filing a motion to recall the warrant
  • Arranging a time for you to turn yourself in and bond out or
  • Appearing in Court and asking the judge to recall the warrant and set new court dates

Warrants are nerve wrenching. We understand your constant worry, “Do I have an arrest warrant”? Do not live in limbo. Do not let armed police officers storm your home or business. You cannot avoid an arrest warrant forever.

Let the attorneys at Stowers & Sarcone, PLC help you. Your warrant will not disappear. Avoiding it won’t make it go away. You will get arrested by armed police officers unless you hire a lawyer with experience disposing of active arrest warrants. So, if you think there is a warrant for your arrest, call Dean Stowers or Nick Sarcone. Stop worrying and start living. 515.224.7446.

Police Airplane Caught You Speeding?

airplane speeding ticket

A police airplane caught you speeding? Or did it? The Iowa State Patrol and other Iowa law enforcement agencies utilize aircraft to allegedly catch speeders. This method of speed enforcement seems super hi-tech, right? It isn’t. In fact, its highly unscientific and prone to substantial error.

Several years ago I tried an airplane speeding case in Mason City, Iowa. I came away enlightened (and with a not guilty jury verdict). Have you ever wondered what those painted white blocks are in the middle of interstate lanes. You are not alone. I used to wonder all the time. Those blocks are used to clock vehicles from an airplane. Here is how it worked in my case:

A state trooper piloted an aircraft over the interstate. While flying, he also watched the traffic on the interstate. When a vehicle crossed a painted white block the trooper started a stopwatch. When the vehicle crossed the next white block he stopped the stopwatch. Then he inputted the time into a formula which computed the vehicle’s speed. The Trooper then radioed down to another officer to stop my client and ticket him.

Seems legit. However, the formula used to compute speed is completely time dependent and the speed computation changes greatly by the second. In my case, the Trooper admitted that the cars looked like little dots from his vantage point in the air. If the cars looked like dots you can guess what the little painted white blocks looked like (assuming they are really even visible). Moreover, the Trooper admitted in addition to flying the airplane and watching traffic out the side window of the aircraft, he ran three stopwatches simultaneously. On top of it all, the the curvature of the earth actually distorts how you view things from the air to the ground.

I argued that any one of these factors, let alone all of them together, cast doubt that the Trooper’s speed computation was accurate beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury agreed and found my client not guilty. So next time you get a speeding ticket, make sure it didn’t come from the air. If it did, call Stowers & Sarcone – 515.224.7446.

Child Pornography Investigation: Police seize computers, phones.

child porn charges

Child pornography investigations often start like this:

The police show up at your home or business and execute a search warrant.  They seize your computers, phones, hard drives and other electronics. You had no idea you were under investigation. You’re in shock. You’re scared. And, your family had no idea. Now you have to explain it to your wife. What do you do? It’s a nightmare.

We handle multiple child pornography cases every year. Most begin with some version the aforementioned story. But child pornography investigations do not end with the search warrant. Your electronics are sent to a federal lab for analysis. The police search for any evidence of child pornography. They can uncover hidden directories and recover deleted files. Nothing you viewed or stored on your computer or phone is safe. The analysis may take months or years to complete.

It is difficult to face anyone under these circumstances. But, immediately hiring an experienced lawyer can significantly improve your situation. Federal child pornography charges have mandatory minimum sentences starting at 5 years. Some charges have 10 or 20 year mandatory minimums. An experienced lawyer can immediately start advocating to influence the government’s charging decision. Moreover, an experienced lawyer can advise you on positive, proactive steps to take while awaiting charges. The worst thing is to sit around and wait for the government’s hammer to drop.

Federal child pornography law is complex and the risks are high. Dean Stowers and Nick Sarcone have years of experience handling federal child pornography cases. We know how to advocate for you before charges are filed and how to handle your case if charges are filed. We will not judge you. We will help you. Contact us at 515-224-7446.

4th Amendment Suppression Motion: Case Dismissed

4th amendment traffic stop

Firearm and Drug Possession Case Dismissed

On January 12, 2018, Dean Stowers obtained the dismissal of a client’s firearm and drug possession case.  Dean successfully argued that the officer did not have probable cause to pull over the Defendant’s vehicle after the officer gave conflicting reasons for the stop.

Probable Cause

Law enforcement must have probable cause  or reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle.  In this case, during courtroom testimony the officer stated that he stopped the vehicle for speeding. However, video from his dash cam revealed he never mentioned speeding as a reason for the stop.  In fact, he asserted on video that he stopped the vehicle for suspected activity in a previous altercation.  Additionally, the Court determined from the video that the Defendant was not speeding, and as a result it was not legal for the officer to stop his vehicle.

Suppression of Evidence  

When an Iowa court concludes evidence was discovered through a constitutional violation, it orders the evidence suppressed. That means the State cannot used any information it learned or obtained as a result of the constitutional violation. In this case, where all of the information was derived from the unconstitutional traffic stop, there was simply no evidence left upon which the prosecution could sustain a charge. Hence, the prosecution dismissed the case.

Iowa Criminal Defense Attorneys

Law enforcement officers make unlawful traffic stops every single day.  The attorneys at Stowers and Sarcone know your constitutional rights and have a dedicated track record of holding law enforcement to the proper procedures.  Don’t let a potential defense to your case go unnoticed!  Contact us today at 515 224 7446.

Modifying an Iowa No Contact Order

Iowa No Contact Order

HOW TO MODIFY A NO CONTACT ORDER

Modifying a no contact order can be complicated business. There are several types of no contact orders in Iowa. No contact orders which accompany a criminal charge (i.e. domestic assault, harassment, abuse etc.) are the subject of this post. As a charged defendant you should discuss modification with your attorney. No contact orders can be modified, prior to completion of your case. Modifications typically permit child visitation and phone-text-email communication. A modification requires your lawyer to make a motion to the court. A hearing is then set for your attorney to explain to the court the reasons for your requested modification. Most no contact orders will not be dropped until your criminal case is over (and some will survive the case).

As the “protected party”, the person whom the no contact order is designed to protect, you should discuss modification with your lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer you should retain one to assist you. Modification of no contact orders can be difficult and may require you to appear before a judge. Iowa judges may ask you questions related to the crime you reported. If you deny the crime occurred, or make materially false statements, you could set yourself up for prosecution.

The attorneys at Stowers & Sarcone, PLC regularly handle modifications of criminal no contact orders. Additionally, our attorneys handle a wide variety of criminal cases from traffic tickets to major state and federal felonies. If you need help modifying a no contact order or have a criminal charge, call us immediately. 515.224.7446

Sessions Rescinds Obama Pot Policy

Marijuana legalization

SESSIONS DECLARES WAR ON POT

In a stunning, but not unexpected move, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded the Justice Department’s policy of non-interference with States that have decriminalized and/or legalized marijuana. Cannabis and its derivatives have long been illegal to use, possess and distribute under federal law. Weed is actually still illegal to use, possess and distribute in most states.

However, in the last 20 years several states have decriminalized the possession of pot. A few states have made its medicinal or recreational use and distribution legal under state law. As a result, the Obama administration’s justice department developed a policy of non-interference in these states. In other words, as long as the states managed their pot responsibly, the DEA, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies would not enforce federal laws prohibiting marijuana. In actual fact, United States Attorney offices around the country essentially quit prosecuting marijuana cases. That may all be changing.

PROSECUTIONS FOR MARIJUANA LOOMING

It is unclear whether Sessions’ decision to rescind the Cole Memos policy guidance means the feds will start enforcing federal laws prohibiting marijuana. The status quo could hold, but Sessions disdain for marijuana is well documented. Your “legal” weed may soon land you in serious federal trouble. Federal drug charges can carry 5, 10, 20 or even lifetime mandatory minimums depending on the type and amount of drug and your criminal history. Most federal drug cases are charged as a conspiracy. A person does not even have to touch the drug to become part of a federal conspiracy case. In short, if you live in or visit a state where pot is “legal” and you choose to smoke or join a pot business, watch your back. The feds may not be far away.

Stowers & Sarcone, PLC