Attorney Eric D. Puryear

Probation Violations in Iowa

Puryear Law » Legal Blog » Iowa Criminal Law » Probation Violations in Iowa

If there is probable cause to believe that a criminal defendant has violated the terms and conditions of his or her probation in Iowa, the probation officer may seek a summons or an arrest warrant


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from the court. Either the judge that placed the defendant on probation or another judge who would have had jurisdiction to try the original offense handles the matter. If the probation officer decides to proceed by arrest, any magistrate may receive the complaint, issue the warrant, or conduct the initial appearance or probable cause hearing.

The initial appearance, probable cause hearing, and probation revocation hearing, or any of them, may be merged into a single hearing when it appears that the defendant would not be prejudiced.
Typically, in most probation violation cases there are two hearings—the initial appearance and the probation violation hearing. At the initial appearance, the defendant is advised of the violation, given notice of the probation violation hearing, and advised of the right to court-appointed attorney.

At the probation violation hearing, the defendant may admit or deny the allegations of the probation violation complaint. If the defendant admits the violation, then the court proceeds to decide what, if anything, should happen to the defendant’s probation.


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If the defendant denies the allegations, a formal probation violation hearing is held. At the hearing, the defendant must be informed of the evidence against him or her, shall be given the opportunity to be heard, shall have the right to present witnesses or other evidence, and shall have the right to cross-examine the witnesses. The court must determine if the State has proven by a preponderance of the evidence a violation of probation. This burden of proof is a lower burden of proof than in criminal cases, which is by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.

If a violation has been shown or if the defendant admits to the violation, then the court has many options: (1) The court may continue the probation with or without altering the conditions of probation; (2) the court may hold the defendant in contempt of court and sentence him or her to jail while continuing the probation; (3) the court may order the defendant to be placed at a violator facility while continuing probation; or (4) the court may revoke the probation and require the defendant to serve the original sentence imposed or any lesser sentence. For deferred judgments, the court may impose any sentence that it could have originally imposed. If the court revokes a deferred judgment and imposes a fine, the court must reduce the amount of fine by the amount of civil penalty previously assessed against the defendant.


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