Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Sentencing Guidelines and Factors in Iowa Criminal Cases

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Iowa Criminal Law » Sentencing Guidelines and Factors in Iowa Criminal Cases

In Iowa criminal cases, the sentencing judge is instructed by Iowa Code section 901.5 to consider certain guidelines and factors in determining what sentence to impose.  This article discusses that sentencing process in Iowa criminal cases.


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Under Iowa law, the sentencing judge is to consider all pertinent information, which includes any presentence investigation, any victim impact statements, and the sentences that the law allows for the offense.  Using that information, the sentencing judge is to then determine which of those available sentences will provide for maximum opportunity for the defendant to be rehabilitated and also provide for the community to be protected from the defendant and others.

At a sentencing hearing in Iowa, presentation of evidence to seek the most favorable sentence is critical.  Presenting evidence in the most favorable light can be the difference between a defendant receiving a deferred judgment, a suspended sentence, or a lengthy jail/prison sentence.

Iowa code section 901.5 is shown below:


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      After receiving and examining all pertinent information, including
      the presentence investigation report and victim impact statements, if
      any, the court shall consider the following sentencing options.  The
      court shall determine which of them is authorized by law for the
      offense, and of the authorized sentences, which of them or which
      combination of them, in the discretion of the court, will provide
      maximum opportunity for the rehabilitation of the defendant, and for
      the protection of the community from further offenses by the
      defendant and others.
         At the time fixed by the court for pronouncement of judgment and
      sentence, the court shall act accordingly:
         1.  If authorized by section 907.3, the court may defer judgment
      and sentence for an indefinite period in accordance with chapter 907.

         2.  If the defendant is not an habitual offender as defined by
      section 902.8, the court may pronounce judgment and impose a fine.
         3.  The court may pronounce judgment and impose a fine or sentence
      the defendant to confinement, or both, and suspend the execution of
      the sentence or any part of it as provided in chapter 907.
         4.  The court may pronounce judgment and impose a fine or sentence
      the defendant to confinement, or both.
         5.  If authorized by section 907.3, the court may defer the
      sentence and assign the defendant to the judicial district department
      of correctional services.
         6.  The court may pronounce judgment and sentence the defendant to
      confinement and then reconsider the sentence as provided by section
      902.4 or 903.2.
         7.  The court shall inform the defendant of the mandatory minimum
      sentence, if one is applicable.
         8.  The court may order the defendant to complete any treatment
      indicated by a substance abuse evaluation ordered pursuant to section
      901.4A or any other section.
         8A. a.  The court shall order DNA profiling of a defendant
      convicted of an offense that requires profiling under section 81.2.
         b.  Notwithstanding section 81.2, the court may order the
      defendant to provide a DNA sample to be submitted for DNA profiling
      if appropriate.  In determining the appropriateness of ordering DNA
      profiling, the court shall consider the deterrent effect of DNA
      profiling, the likelihood of repeated offenses by the defendant, and
      the seriousness of the offense.
         9.  If the defendant is being sentenced for an aggravated
      misdemeanor or a felony, the court shall publicly announce the
      following:
         a.  That the defendant's term of incarceration may be reduced
      from the maximum sentence because of statutory earned time, work
      credits, and program credits.
         b.  That the defendant may be eligible for parole before the
      sentence is discharged.
         c.  In the case of multiple sentences, whether the sentences
      shall be served consecutively or concurrently.
         10.  In addition to any sentence imposed pursuant to chapter 902
      or 903, the court shall order the state department of transportation
      to revoke the defendant's driver's license or motor vehicle operating
      privilege for a period of one hundred eighty days, or to delay the
      issuance of a driver's license for one hundred eighty days after the
      person is first eligible if the defendant has not been issued a
      driver's license, and shall send a copy of the order in addition to
      the notice of conviction required under section 124.412, 126.26, or
      453B.16, to the state department of transportation, if the defendant
      is being sentenced for any of the following offenses:
         a.  A controlled substance offense under section 124.401,
      124.401A, 124.402, or 124.403.
         b.  A drug or drug-related offense under section 126.3.
         c.  A controlled substance tax offense under chapter 453B.
         If the person's operating privileges are suspended or revoked at
      the time of sentencing, the order shall provide that the one hundred
      eighty-day revocation period shall not begin until all other
      suspensions or revocations have terminated.  Any order under this
      section shall also provide that the department shall not issue a
      temporary restricted license to the defendant during the revocation
      period, without further order by the court.
         11.  In addition to any sentence or other penalty imposed against
      the defendant for an offense under chapter 124, the court shall
      consider the provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 862, regarding the denial of
      federal benefits to drug traffickers and possessors convicted under
      state or federal law, and may enter an order specifying the range and
      scope of benefits to be denied to the defendant, according to the
      provisions of 21 U.S.C. § 862.  For the purposes of this subsection,
      "federal benefit" means the issuance of any grant, contract,
      loan, professional license, or commercial license provided by an
      agency of the United States or through the appropriation of funds of
      the United States, but does not include any retirement, welfare,
      social security, health, disability, veterans, public housing, or
      similar benefit for which payments or services are required for
      eligibility.  The supreme court may adopt rules establishing
      sentencing guidelines consistent with this subsection and 21 U.S.C. §
      862.  The clerk of the district court shall send a copy of any order
      issued pursuant to this subsection to the denial of federal benefits
      program of the United States department of justice, along with any
      other forms and information required by the department.
         12.  In addition to any sentence or other penalty imposed against
      the defendant for an offense under chapter 124, the court shall
      consider the denial of state benefits to the defendant, and may enter
      an order specifying the range and scope of benefits to be denied to
      the defendant, comparable to the federal benefits denied under
      subsection 11.  For the purposes of this subsection, "state
      benefit" means the issuance of any grant, contract, loan,
      professional license, or commercial license provided by a state
      agency, department, program, or otherwise through the appropriation
      of funds of the state, but does not include any retirement, welfare,
      health, disability, veterans, public housing, or similar benefit.
      The supreme court may adopt rules establishing sentencing guidelines
      consistent with this subsection and comparable to the guidelines for
      denial of federal benefits in 21 U.S.C. § 862.  The clerk of the
      district court shall send a copy of any order issued pursuant to this
      subsection to each state agency, department, or program required to
      deny benefits pursuant to such an order.
         13.  In addition to any other sentence or other penalty imposed
      against the defendant, the court shall impose a special sentence if
      required under section 903B.1 or 903B.2.


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