A person in Iowa has a right to appeal any conviction to the Iowa Supreme Court as long as a notice of appeal is filed with the District Clerk of Court and the Iowa Supreme Court no later than thirty (30) days following their conviction. If the notice of appeal is not filed within thirty (30) days following a conviction, generally the right to appeal is lost. However, in certain circumstances permission can be granted from the Iowa Supreme Court to file an appeal when more than thirty (30) days has elapsed since sentencing. A person wishing to appeal a conviction must also file an appeal bond in order to effectuate an appeal. The appeal bond can either be posted by using a bonds man, by posting the entire appeal bond with the court, or by getting permission from the sentencing judge to allow 10% of the appeal bond to be posted as cash to the court. By filing a notice of appeal and posting the appeal bond, the sentence imposed in the case is stayed or stopped pending the outcome of the appeal.
Most appeals stemming from operating while intoxicated charges are the result of a motion to suppress (a hearing where evidence is attempted to be excluded from trial due to a statutory or constitutional violation of an individuals rights) which was denied by the judge at the District Court level. Generally the most damaging piece of evidence in an operating while intoxicated case is the chemical test result and/or the field sobriety tests. The purpose of an appeal is to correct or overturn the judge’s ruling denying the motion to suppress and get that evidence excluded from trial. If a person is successful on appeal and precludes the use of the chemical test results or chemical test refusal, not only does the accused get the benefit of the State being precluded from using this evidence at trial, but they would also be able to have their driving privileges reinstated pursuant to Iowa Code Section 321J.13(6). Thus, appeals become very attractive avenues for pursuing a miscarriage of justice by a district court judge in an operating while intoxicated case.
If you are contemplating pursing an appeal, you should speak to an experience attorney about the best way to preserve your right to appeal. In Iowa, you would likely be precluded from appealing an adverse ruling in your case if you plead guilty to the charge of operating while intoxicated. You also would likely be precluded from pleading guilty if you asked for and received a deferred judgment (more information on what a deferred judgment is under “Expungement”). Thus, if you are contemplating an appeal, but do not want to go to trial, you would likely “stipulate to a trial on the minutes of testimony” and have the judge find you guilty. When you stipulate to a trial on the minutes, you essentially waive your right to a jury trial and have the judge find you guilty on the “minutes of testimony” which is a summary of the witnesses’ testimony that is attached to the trial information. By taking this approach, you save the time and expense of a jury trial but still are able to preserve your right to appeal.
Appeals can be a very time consuming and expensive processes. The general time frame for an appeal from start to finish can take up to a year. A filing fee of $50 is mandated when filing an appeal and the cost of creating an appendix (a compilation of all transcripts and other documents necessary for the appeal) can run several hundred dollars. Another important consideration is that a even though the criminal sentence may be stayed pending the outcome of the appeal, this does not stay the administrative driver’s license suspension that is imposed. It is entirely possible, especially with a first offense operating while intoxicated charge, that a person’s driving privileges may be reinstated before an appeal is completed. Thus, it is important to discuss the costs and benefits of an appeal with an experienced attorney to determine of the benefits of an appeal outweigh the costs of the appeal.