Seized Cash Successfully Returned to Rightful Owner

Civil-asset-forfeiture

Court: Authorities Must Return $167,000 in Seized Cash

In a May 8 ruling, a Polk County District Court judge ruled authorities must return over $167,000  unlawfully taken from our client whom officers wrongfully suspected of identity theft.  Our client was stopped, seized and his vehicle searched all because the police mistakenly believed he was involved in an identity theft case. During the search, the police found the chash and other items which resulted in criminal charges.

The State, attempting to keep the money, filed a forfeiture action in the Iowa District Court. However, the cash was returned after the State failed to file a notice of pending forfeiture as required under Iowa Code Section 809A.8.  Iowa Code Chapters 809 and 809A require the State follow a stringent forfeiture procedure before permanently taking property from private citizens.  Seized property and cash must be returned if the State fails to comply. 

Criminal Charges Dismissed

As noted, our client faced several criminal charges as well.  Dean Stowers successfully argued that the police searched our client’s vehicle in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Thus, even if the State had followed the proper forfeiture procedure, the cash was illegally seized and had to be returned.

Iowa Forfeiture Attorneys

Millions of dollars are seized every year from law-abiding citizens.  State and Federal law enforcement agencies make billions of dollars each year stealing cash and property from private citizens. The attorneys at Stowers and Sarcone are well versed in Iowa forfeiture law and are dedicated to relentlessly seeking the return of your unjustly and illegally seized property. Don’t let the government illegally profit off you!  Contact us today at 515-224-7446.

Iowa Knife Laws

In one of my previous posts, I explained how Iowa law defines what a dangerous weapon is. I warned that it is illegal for a person to go armed with a dangerous weapon. Now, I want to talk about Iowa knife laws.

It is illegal for a person to carry a knife if that person intends to use this knife in the commission of a crime. According to § 724.4(2), a person who goes armed with a knife concealed on or about the person, if the person uses a knife in the commission of a crime, commits an aggravated misdemeanor.

Iowa law specifies what knives a person is allowed to carry concealed on or about that person’s body. According to Section 724.4(3) of the Iowa Code:

A person who goes armed with a knife concealed on or about the person, if the person does not use the knife in the commission of a crime:

  • Commits an aggravated misdemeanor if the knife has a blade exceeding eight inches in length. This offense is punishable by a fine between $625 and $6,250 and at most a two-year prison sentence.
  • Commits a serious misdemeanor if the knife has a blade exceeding five inches but not exceeding eight inches in length. This offense is punishable by a fine between $315 and $1,875 and a jail sentence of up to one year.

The law allows a person to carry knives that exceed those limitations in the person’s own dwelling or place of business, or on land owned or possessed by the person. A person also is allowed to carry a knife used in hunting or fishing, while actually engaged in lawful hunting or fishing. Iowa Code Ann. § 702.7 (West).

Some knives are dangerous weapons per se. A person cannot carry them concealed or open. For example, a person cannot carry daggers, razors, stilettos, balisongs, or strait razors. That means that even if a dagger’s blade is less than five inches, a person cannot carry it.

This is a short summary of Iowa Knife Laws.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call Stowers & Sarcone today at (515) 224-7446. Protect your rights! Act now!

Stopped by a policeman. What should you do?

Being stopped by a policeman is scary no matter what the reason for the stop is.  While we all hope that police officers will be fair and just, citizen rights are not always respected.  It is important to avoid doing anything that could risk your safety or your freedom.

General guidelines for dealing with police: always be respectful and watch what you say. What you say “can and will be used against you in court” and can give the police an excuse to arrest you.  Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.  Do not argue with a police officer, do not touch a police officer.  Do not run from a police officer.

It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but refusing to answer might make the police suspicious about you. Police may pat down your clothing if they suspect you of concealing a weapon.  Be clear that you do not consent to any search.

What to do once you are under arrest or you suspect you are under arrest:

Ask if you are under arrest.  If you are, you have the right to know why.  If you are detained or arrested, you don’t have to answer any questions outside of typical booking questions, such as your name, address, etc.  ASK FOR YOUR ATTORNEY ONCE YOU ARE DETAINED OR ARRESTED. Do so in a very clear manner.  For example, don’t say: “should I have an attorney for this?” do say: “I want my attorney now.”  If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.  Do not say anything further.  You can make your case about your side of the story in court.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, call Stowers & Sarcone today at (515) 224-7446. Protect your rights! Act now!

How Your Careless Posts on Social Media Could Be Used Against You

Police search cell phone

We all love social media. Nowadays, it is hard to find a person who does not have a Facebook or an Instagram account. Even the Iowa State Patrol has its own Facebook page (LINK). However, careless posting on those accounts has consequences, sometimes, even criminal consequences. Our experience shows that the information from social networks is often used in criminal trials. This evidence became a critical element in an increasing number of court cases. Prosecutors across the country utilize social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to research information about the backgrounds of parties, witnesses, opposing counsels, jurors, and even judges.

Prosecutors use pictures from Facebook as evidence. For example, recently, a Florida man who killed his wife and posted a photo of her dead body on Facebook was convicted of a second-degree murder after failing to convince a jury that he shot her eight times in self-defense.

Next, evidence from social networking sites can reveal personal communications, establish motives and personal relationships. It can also prove and disprove alibis because postings sometimes provide location information.  Accordingly, a person should be careful when he or she posts something on Facebook. “Once you put something out on the Internet, it’s there forever,” said Hamilton Police Lt. Carl Sigmon. You need to be careful about what you actually put on the Internet because you never know where it’s going to wind up.” http://www.journal-news.com/news/news/social-media-posts-admissible-in-court/nSWR3/

A story that recently happened to 50 Cent, the rapper, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, could be a good example of careless posting. Last year, Mr. Jackson filed for bankruptcy. However, subsequently, he posted several photos on his Instagram account showing him with wads of cash. In one Instagram photo, he uses stacks of bills to spell out the word “broke.”  As a result, the judge ordered him to appear in court and to explain those photos.

I am Nick Sarcone, attorney at Stowers and Sarcone. If you have questions about this or any other criminal law question, feel free to reach me at (515) 224-7446.

What is a Dangerous Weapon in Iowa

The Iowa Code in Section 702.7 identifies what a dangerous weapon in Iowa is. According to this section, there are three approaches, which can be used to analyze whether an instrument or device meets the statutory definition of a dangerous weapon:

• An instrument or device, which is designed primarily for use in inflicting death or injury upon a human being or animal, and which is capable of inflicting death upon a human being when used in the manner for which it was designed. This part is very straightforward. A gun is a dangerous weapon.
• An instrument or device, which is actually used in such a manner as to indicate that the defendant intends to inflict death or serious injury upon the other, and which, when so used, is capable of inflicting death upon a human being. That means that a baseball bat can be a dangerous weapon when it is used to intimidate somebody.
• An instrument or device listed in the statute that has been defined as a dangerous weapon per se (State v. Durham, 323 N.W.2d 243, 244–45 (Iowa 1982)), one of which is any portable device or weapon directing an electric current, impulse, wave, or beam that produces a high-voltage pulse designed to immobilize a person. That means that Taser guns and stunt guns are dangerous weapons. The Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that even inoperative stunt guns are dangerous weapons.

The law imposes limitations on carrying dangerous weapons. A person who goes armed with a dangerous weapon concealed on or about the person commits an aggravated misdemeanor.
Assaults with dangerous weapons are punished more seriously than simple assaults. The Iowa Law recognizes:
• Misdemeanor Assault With a Dangerous Weapon (§ 708.1 of the Iowa Code)
• Felony Assault With a Dangerous Weapon (§§ 708.6, 708.8 of the Iowa Code)
• Assault With a Dangerous Weapon Against a Protected Employee (§ 708.3A of the Iowa Code)
• Assault in Violation of Individual Rights (Hate Crimes) (§§ 708.2C, 729A.2 of the Iowa Code)

This is a short summary of the crimes that involve using dangerous weapons. In the next post, I will explain Iowa Knife Laws.

We, at Stowers and Sarcone, can help you to fight those charges and to achieve the best possible outcome. Call me at 515.224.7446 and I will help you!

The Supreme Court of Iowa Found No Violation of the Right to Consult With the Attorney at the Place of Custody

In the recent decision, the Supreme Court of Iowa addressed the issue of whether a person’s right to consult with the attorney at the detention facility was violated. This story is a good example of how careful a person should be if he or she is charged with a crime. Here is the history of the case.

One night, police officers stopped Mr. Lamoreux’s car. They suspected that he was drunk driving. Officers performed field sobriety tests on him and found that he was intoxicated. Mr. Lamoreux was transported to the Hancock County law enforcement center and placed in the booking room. Subsequently. Mr. Lamoreux’s attorney arrived at the jail and went straight into the booking room to meet with his client.

It turns out that the booking room was equipped with a camera and a microphone that record automatically. Both items were visible to people sitting in the room. It was possible to turn off the microphone by flipping a switch. However, the attorney did not do that.

The Iowa Code section 804.20 provides that an attorney shall be permitted to see and consult confidentially with such person alone and in private at the jail or other place of custody.

In this case, the Supreme Court found no violation of the Iowa Code section 804.20. The court ruled that the wording of the statute suggests that while an attorney must be allowed to meet with his or her client in private, the meeting itself does not have to be private if the attorney chooses to speak with his or her client when the conversation is recorded by the police. The court stated that the presence of the audio and camera monitoring was obvious for Mr. Lamoreux and for his attorney. They could switch off video and audio recording, and § 804.20 did not apply to them.

If you have a question about this post or any other question about criminal law, call me at Stowers and Sarcone at 515.224.7446. I will be happy to answer it!

Proposed Changes to Public Intoxication Laws in Iowa

Recently, I wrote a post about public intoxication laws in Iowa. In the post, I explained that it is illegal to be intoxicated in Iowa in a public place. I wrote that, however, the law allows people to be intoxicated in private residences, clarified what a private residence is and how it differs from a public place. I also stressed that our neighboring states (Minnesota and Illinois) do not punish people who are intoxicated in public.

Today, Des Moines Register reported that the Iowa State Legislature is considering to repeal Iowa’s public drunkenness laws, including one that says that it is illegal even to simulate intoxication. A new bill, if passed, will eliminate laws that make public intoxication a crime in Iowa. That is good news for a lot of Iowans. It was mentioned in the article, that in the 12 months ending June 30 of last year, 10,662 public-intoxication charges were issued. That is a lot of people!

However, you should remember that public intoxication is still a crime in Iowa that will affect your criminal record. Accordingly, if you are charged with public intoxication, you should call me at Stowers and Sarcone at (515) 224-7446. I will be happy to help you and to answer all your questions!

Domestic Abuse and Firearm Prohibitions

Today, Des Moines Register published an article concerning about abuse and firearm prohibition. In the article, Des Moines Register reported that more than 80 Iowans have been convicted of violating a state law that bans domestic abusers from owning guns. That is a lot of people. I want to stress the importance of this law. In Iowa, the law prohibits possession, receipt, transportation, or dominion and control of firearms, offensive weapons, and ammunition by a person who:

  • is subject to a protective order
  • has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence (724.26(2)(a)).

Violation of this rule is a serious crime – class “D” felony. If you were found guilty of domestic abuse and have any questions about whether or not you are a subject to this prohibition, feel free to call me at (515) 224-7446.

Are Dash Cameras and GPS Navigators Illegal?

Some drivers install dash cameras in their cars. It is a useful device to have. It is not costly to buy one. At the same time, a dash camera can save you a lot of money. It will definitely help you if you get into the accident. For example, it will be easier for you to prove that you stopped at the red light when another driver claims that you did not. However, are dash cameras Illegal to mount?

There are specific rules that regulate where a driver can mount those cameras. In Iowa, you cannot mount a camera on a windshield. Pursuant to 321.438 of the Iowa Code, a person shall not drive a motor vehicle equipped with a windshield that do not permit clear vision.

Many other states have similar laws. For example, in Illinois, no person shall drive a motor vehicle with any objects placed or suspended between the driver and the front windshield, rear window, side wings or side windows immediately adjacent to each side of the driver, which materially obstructs the driver’s view.  Thus, in Iowa and Illinois, you will violate traffic laws if you mount a camera on your windshield. Same is true for GPS navigators.

As I mentioned previously, a policeman can stop a motorist for any traffic violation, even a minor one. Mounting a dash camera on a windshield is a minor violation. If a policeman stops you, he will, probably, give you a warning. However, this is a reason for a traffic stop. The readers of my blog know that policemen very often transform routine traffic stops into drug interdiction traffic stops.

I am Nick Sarcone, an attorney at Stowers and Sarcone. I write this blog and continue to inform you about different aspects of criminal law. If you have any questions, call me at (515) 224-7446.

What should I wear to court?

Court_of_Chancery_editedDo you have to appear in court? Do you already know what you are going to wear to court? A court hearing is an important event in your life and you should be ready for it. Let’s talk today about the etiquette required in court and start with the courtroom dress code.

There is no codified rule that will tell you what exactly to wear in court. At the same time, people in the court expect you to treat them with respect. So, treat them with respect, treat everything like it matters. Dressing appropriately is one of the ways to do that. That will also help your attorney (public defender or an attorney that you hire) to represent you. That is why it is a good idea to wear a suit and a tie in court.

If you do not have a suit, that is all right, you do not have to wear one. Pants and a shirt will work for you. However, try to avoid hats, bandanas or any head dress if it is not a part of your religious attire. Do not wear any revealing clothing. Your clothing must cover all undergarments and do not wear flip flops.

The most important thing. You should never wear clothing that has obscene or profane language or illustrations. No marijuana leaves on t-shirts or gang-related attire. As a former public defender, I saw how people did that many times. And I can say that the judge will not like a large marijuana leaf on your t-shirt.

There is another advice that I often give to my clients in summer. In summer, it is also a good idea to bring something warm with you. Because of air conditioning, it is usually freezing cold in court buildings.

If you have any questions about this or any other question about criminal law, please, call Stowers and Sarcone at 512-224-7446, ask for Nicholas Sarcone, and I will be happy to help you.