Des Moines Criminal Defense Lawyers

Des Moines criminal lawyer

There are many criminal defense lawyers in the Des Moines, Iowa area. Who you choose to represent you may make a significant difference in the outcome of your criminal case. At Stowers & Sarcone, PLC virtually all of our cases are criminal cases. As criminal defense lawyers, we take pride in offering aggressive, creative, high quality legal representation. We not only work out cases hard but we work them smart. Our goal is to get you the best possible result; not just the easiest one. Our job is to represent YOU! We are not interested in cutting deals which will not help YOU! We do not pander to the State, we do not back down from a fight and we will not be deterred in our mission to see your case through to its final and best outcome.


Criminal defense lawyers handle all types of criminal cases. At Stowers & Sarcone, we provide representation in Des Moines and all over the State of Iowa. We represent clients in Iowa State and Iowa Federal Court. Some examples of the cases we handle include:

  •  Traffic Tickets
  • Assault & Domestic Assault
  • Drug Possession & Trafficking
  • Burglary & Robbery
  • Theft, Fraud & Forgery
  • Homicide and Violent Crimes
  • Sex Abuse, Rape, Child Pornography & Other Sex Crimes
  • Criminal Mischief, Trespass & Other Property Crimes
  • Supervised Release & Probation Violations
  • All Criminal Cases in State & Federal Court
  • Federal and State Appeals


For us, no case is too small and no case is too big, complex or complicated. We will travel from Des Moines to anywhere in Iowa. We have successfully litigated major cases which have created major changes in the law. We routinely litigate minor traffic matters like speeding tickets and school bus stop infractions. Your case is important to you and therefore, it is important to us! 


If you would like to read about some of our successful trials and appeals click here and here. If you or a loved one need a criminal lawyer, call us! 515.224.7446.

Iowa Domestic Abuse Assault Defense Attorneys

domestic abuse assault


Iowa Code Chapter 708 defines Domestic Abuse Assault and sets forth the penalties. An assault is any unjustified act which

  • Is intended to cause pain or injury to, or which is intended to result in physical contact which will be insulting or offensive to another, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act
  • Is intended to place another in fear of immediate physical contact which will be painful, injurious, insulting, or offensive, coupled with the apparent ability to execute the act; or
  • Intentionally pointing any firearm toward another, or displaying in a threatening manner any dangerous weapon toward another

Iowa Code Section 708.1 – Assault Defined.

For an assault to be classified as a Domestic Abuse Assault under Iowa Law the assault must be committed between

  • Family or household members residing together at the time of the assault
  • Separated or divorced spouses not residing together
  • Parents of minor children regardless of marital or living situation
  • Family or household members who have lived with each other in the past year

Iowa Code Section 708.2A – Domestic Abuse Assault.



  • “D” Felony (5 Years Prison Time) – If the assault is committed by knowingly impeding the normal breathing or circulations of the blood of another by applying pressure to the throat or neck of the other person or by obstructing the nose or mouth of the other person, and causing bodily injury (strangulation/suffocation)
  • Aggravated Misdemeanor (2 Years Prison Time) – If the assault is committed by knowingly impeding the normal breathing or circulations of the blood of another by applying pressure to the throat or neck of the other person or by obstructing the nose or mouth of the other person (strangulation/suffocation)
  • Aggravated Misdemeanor (2 Years Prison Time) – If the assault is committed with the intent to inflict serious injury upon another, or if the person uses or displays a dangerous weapon
  • Serious Misdemeanor (1 Year County Jail) – If the assault causes bodily injury or mental illness
  • Simple Misdemeanor (30 Days County Jail) – All other Domestic Abuse Assault


  • Prior Convictions which are more than 12 years old DO NOT COUNT!
  • Prior Deferred Judgments will be counted if within the last 12 years.
  • A Simple Misdemeanor Domestic charge is enhanced to a Serious Misdemeanor Domestic if a person has one prior conviction for Simple Misdemeanor Domestic Abuse Assault.
  • All other 2nd Offense Charges (based upon any prior domestic abuse assault conviction/deferred judgment) can be enhanced to an Aggravated Misdemeanor.
  • Except Strangulation or Suffocation causing bodily injury (as defined above). This charge is always a “D” Felony.


  • ALL 3RD OFFENSE DOMESTIC ABUSE ASSAULT CHARGES ARE “D” FELONIES (excepting those convictions more than 12 years old).

Iowa Code Section 708.2A – Domestic Abuse Assault.


  • Deferred Judgment is possible only if a person has not used one on any previous assault (domestic or otherwise).
  • Minimum Term of Jail – 2 days on all domestic assaults.
  • 24 Week Iowa Domestic Violence Program Classes are mandatory.
  • ***Certain convictions result in loss of firearm rights and privileges.***

A Domestic Abuse Assault Charge is not one to take lightly. The State of Iowa treats these charges very seriously and so must you. The experienced and tenacious attorneys at Stowers & Sarcone, PLC have decades of experience fighting in the criminal courts of Iowa. We will not back down and we will pursue every means within reason to get you the best possible outcome. Visit our website or call us NOW! 515.224.7446



Passing a School Bus

Stowers and Sarcone Secures Not Guilty Verdict – Passing a School Bus Offense

If you have ever driven behind a school bus you know it may stop at any time to pick up or drop off students. As the bus driver prepares to stop the school bus, he or she will turn on the amber, flashing warning lights. Three to five hundred yards later, the bus will come to a complete stop, the red lights will flash and the stop arm will extend. So, when those amber lights come on you have to act quickly because passing a stopped school bus will cost you. Learn more here.

Passing a school bus is a serious offense. A first violation is a simple misdemeanor with a minimum fine of $250.00 and a maximum potential fine of $675.00. In addition, a judge can impose a jail sentence of up to thirty days. Lastly, your driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days. Second and subsequent offenses are serious misdemeanors punishable by up to a year in jail, a 90 day driver’s license suspension (2nd Offense) or a 180 day suspension (3rd + Offense).

Passing a school bus isn’t your run of the mill traffic ticket. You need a lawyer to protect you if charged with this offense. The consequences are even more significant for CDL holders and those that drive for a living. Additionally, the negative impacts on your insurance coverage and costs may be severe. You need a lawyer to protect you from these negative consequences. Recently, Stowers and Sarcone Attorney Gabriel Walsh, obtained from a jury a not-guilty verdict. Gabe’s client owns a trucking company and drives for a living. The not guilty verdict saved him thousands of dollars in lost earnings.

At the end of the day, passing a school bus is not a ticket you should take lightly. Your driver’s license, your freedom, your insurance, and possibly your livelihood may be on the line. If you are charged with passing a school bus call Stowers and Sarcone now! Let us protect you. 515-224-7446

Iowa Stand Your Ground Defense Rejected

stand ground law


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.