Johnson County Courthouse

Johnson County Courthouse
Johnson County Courthouse

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Interesting Blog on Johnson County Criminal Justice System

Interesting New Blog on the Johnson County, Iowa Criminal Justice System

Here’s an interesting new blog that focuses on the criminal justice system here in Johnson County, Iowa where I live and work.  It is written by former University of Iowa Professor John Neff who lives here in Iowa City.  What I find so useful and interesting about the blog is that it attempts to analyze many of the big criminal justice issues/questions, such as the role of race play in recidivism, but on a local level.  

Deferred Judgments in Iowa

Deferred Judgments in Iowa: A Potentially Favorable Alternative

A deferred judgment is sometimes an excellent option in cases where the State has a strong case and the defendant has concerns about the lasting impact of a conviction on their criminal record. 
In essence, a deferred judgment in Iowa is a legal process where a defendant pleads guilty to a crime, but the judge “defers” imposition of any sentence. If the defendant successfully completes a probationary period (i.e. they pay their fines and court costs, do all recommended treatment, have no new offenses, etc.), then they will avoid a permanent conviction on their record. Thanks to a relatively recent bill passed in 2012, their record will also be expunged.  This can be especially important to college students applying for grad/professional school or for jobs after graduation. 

Deferred judgments are not available in every case, as a defendant can only receive two deferred judgments in their lifetime. Moreover, Iowa Code 907.3(1) also lists numerous additional prohibitions on defendants receiving deferred judgments.  For instance, deferred judgments are not available if the defendant has previously been convicted of a felony in Iowa or any other state, if the defendant committed an assault on a police officer, or if the defendant is charged with domestic assault and has previously been granted a deferred judgment or sentence for domestic assault. 

In Iowa OWI cases, deferred judgments are not available if the blood alcohol concentration was above .150, if the defendant has a previous conviction or deferred judgment for OWI, if the defendant refuses to consent to a test required by the Iowa implied consent statute , or if a bodily injury occurred to someone other than the defendant. 

The decision about whether to pursue a deferred judgment is one that should be made with the consultation of an attorney.

Collateral Consequences of Iowa Criminal Convictions

Collateral Consequences of an Iowa Criminal Conviction: The Hidden Penalties

One of the many lessons I learned in my 6 ½ years as a Public Defender in Alaska is that the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are often the most important aspect of a case for a client. Sure, everyone wants their case to be dismissed. Yet for many clients avoiding some of the consequences not listed in their judgment or sentencing order is actually more important than keeping a clean criminal record or avoiding jail time. 

For instance, a felony conviction results in the loss of the right to possess a firearm.  This can have devastating consequences to members of the armed forces, as it can lead to their discharge from the military, and sportsmen as it can impair their ability to hunt.  Another important collateral consequence of a criminal conviction is that drug convictions can result in the loss of federal financial aid. This is an especially important consideration for many of my clients at Hayes Lorenzen Lawyers in Iowa City who attend the University of Iowa. Collateral consequences of criminal convictions can even impair your vacation plans.  Many people don’t know this, but an OWI conviction in America can result in an American citizen being denied entry into Canada.  When I practiced in Alaska this would sometimes prove disruptive to clients with family or work responsibilities in Canada. 

There are countless other examples of the jarring impact of the collateral consequences of criminal convictions ranging from potential problems in obtaining public housing to driver’s license issues with certain criminal convictions. With all of these somewhat “hidden” penalties,  the decision to “go it alone” without the assistance of an attorney after a criminal charge is perilous. Simply put, a seemingly lenient sentence that a defendant obtains without the assistance of an attorney that avoids jail and just results in a fine and/or probation could generate a series of unwelcome surprises in the future.  

This is why it is so important to seek the advice of an experienced attorney after being charged with a crime.  An experienced criminal defense attorney should be able to educate clients about these collateral consequences and can sometimes craft a resolution to the client’s criminal charge that avoids these collateral consequences.

Academic Sanctions as a Result of Criminal Conduct


One of the many unintended consequences of a criminal charge can be significant sanctions at a client’s high school, college, or university. As my practice is located in Iowa City, I see this most often with clients who attend the University of Iowa. When these clients become charged with criminal offenses such as OWI, Public Intoxication, or Possession of Controlled Substances, a disciplinary process is often triggered that can result in sanctions such as suspension, expulsion, disciplinary probation, cancellation of university housing, or a disciplinary reprimand.  

Given the potentially life altering ramifications of these sanctions, it is sometimes invaluable to have an attorney represent the student throughout the process. For instance, at many academic institutions, the burden of proof in their student judicial procedure is significantly lower than the standard of proof in a criminal courtroom. Consequently, even if the criminal charge ends up being dismissed the student could still be found to have violated university policy and sanctioned. Moreover, at some academic institutions, interim sanctions are imposed pending the outcome of the investigation and ensuing student disciplinary hearing.  Given these difficulties, representation from a diligent and zealous attorney can sometimes be the difference between a client remaining in school and being expelled. 

At Hayes Lorenzen Lawyers, I realize that sometimes the successful resolution of a client’s pending criminal matter is only half of the battle, and that minimizing the disruption in a client’s academic progress is sometimes the client’s primary goal. Because of this, I offer dual representation in both a client’s criminal case and their student judicial procedure proceedings.  


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