Best Options: What court appearances do I have to attend in my Cedar Rapids OWI prosecution?


Potential clients and clients often ask me, "do I have to go to that?" The safe answer is: yes to ALL court appearances. If you go and it wasn't required, there isn't a warrant. If you are absent and attendance was required, you risk a warrant. You must be personally present at all ordered court dates and times unless your attorney notifies you otherwise in writing. And think about it; it's smart to require your attorney to give you a piece of paper that says a court date has been delayed (in lawyer speak a delay is called a 'continuance') or outright cancelled. If you assume, well, you know. 

The first court scheduled appearance is called a 'preliminary hearing,' a misunderstood creature of the law that is often waived by defense counsel or mooted by the filing of an indictment. Does that mean you don't have to go? Not unless someone notifies you in writing you are free to skip it. Remember, it's better to attend every court appearance ordered by a judge than to risk a warrant. 

The Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure require the judge or magistrate at initial appearance to schedule a preliminary hearing. 

The rule reads, in part, that "[t]he magistrate shall inform the defendant of the right to a preliminary hearing unless the defendant is indicted by a grand jury or a trial information is filed against the defendant or unless preliminary hearing is waived in writing or on the record. If the defendant waives preliminary hearing, the magistrate shall order the defendant held to answer in further proceedings. If the defendant does not waive the preliminary hearing, the magistrate shall schedule a preliminary hearing and inform the defendant of the date of the preliminary hearing. Such hearing shall be held within a reasonable time but in any event not later than 10 days following the initial appearance if the defendant is in custody and no later than 20 days if the defendant is not in custody."

If Defendant demands a preliminary hearing, it's virtually guaranteed the State will have a trial information filed before the hearing to moot and therefore cancel the preliminary hearing. Typically defense counsel will waive it. It is an antiquated feature of the law in all but the most serious cases. Even then, it's likely only to speed the filing of the indictment.

The next court date the Defendant should concern himself or herself is the arraignment. The arraignment typically will be set when the State files a trial information along with predicted testimony of the witnesses, called the minutes of testimony. The arraignment is Defendant's "answer" to the criminal lawsuit. The answer, signed by Defendant, typically can be submitted in writing by defense counsel, thus cancelling the arraignment. Again, defendants should assume they must appear unless an attorney notifies them otherwise in writing. 

The judge will enter an order accepting the not-guilty plea and set what is now called a case management conference (formerly a pretrial conference) and a tentative jury trial date. Discovery depositions and pretrial motions designed to exclude evidence can create additional appointments and court dates. 

Barring depositions or motion hearings, the next court date following the case management conference will be the jury trial, if a defendant chooses to vindicate his or her constitutional rights to their logical conclusion. Trials don't happen in every case but they can if the defendant wishes to pursue their rights fully-- and barring an acceptable plea agreement.

Regardless, if you or a loved one has been arrested for OWI (DUI) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, Linn, Johnson, Blackhawk, or other Iowa communities or counties, contact DAC-LAW PLC for a free initial consultation at 319-389-4276 or 

DAC-LAW PLC - Cedar Rapids OWI-DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyer

305 2nd Avenue Suite 200

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401



Ancient law books and gavel
Typical Cedar Rapids OWI Court Appearances
Initial AppearanceWithin 24 hours of arrest. Usually on "video court" at Linn County Jail for an OWI case. A magistrate or judge will set pretrial release conditions, or, bond, and notify defendant of the charge and its minimum and maximum penalties.
Preliminary HearingDefendants technically have a right to a preliminary hearing to determine whether sufficient evidence of probable cause exists to proceed to trial. It is cancelled if an indictment, or, trial information, is filed before the hearing. Invariably, this hearing is either waived or cancelled. It's typically a non-event. Assume, however, you must be personally present unless and until your lawyer notifies you otherwise in writing.
ArraignmentThe date set to submit a plea of not guilty, guilty, or previous conviction (double jeopardy). Typically one week to two weeks after the trial information is filed. If retained or appointed, an attorney will assist in the drafting of a document to submit to the court to enter a 'not guilty' plea, the default position in every prosecution, to work up the case, conduct discovery, and, if applicable, negotiate a plea agreement with the State. Pleading guilty at this stage is extremely rare. There is no penalty for pleading not guilty and then substituting a guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement later in the prosecution, a frequent question.
Pretrial Motion HearingsMotions to suppress evidence or to dismiss the prosecution generally must be set for hearing. They don't happen in every case and the hearing won't be set unless a defense lawyer affirmatively files such a motion in the court.
Case Management Conference /Pretrial Conference

In Linn County, we've gone to a new system called a "case management conference," replacing the "pretrial conference" system previously in place. The case management conference is scheduled some 40 days after arraignment. In the Sixth Judicial District, the Court has made it clear that "all counsel and parties must appear at a CMC"

Jury Trial The court is setting jury trials 70-80 days from the date of the filing of the trial information in cases where defendant demand a so-called "speedy trial" (requires a jury trial within 90 days of the filing of the trial information) or 110-120 days out when speedy is waived. A jury trial doesn't happen in every case. The defendant is in complete control and can demand a jury trial or negotiate a plea agreement with the State.

Initial appearances, preliminary hearings, arraignments, and case management conferences. It's enough to confuse anyone. Chart your course back to life before an OWI crisis.  Call DAC-LAW PLC today at 319-389-4276 for a free initial consultation.