Iowa divides felonies into four classes: A, B, C, and D. Felonies are punishable by incarceration in state prison for terms of more than two years and up to life. Less serious offenses—misdemeanors—carry maximum sentences of two years.
This article will review felony penalties and crimes in Iowa.
Within Iowa's four felony classes, class A felonies carry the harshest punishments and class D felonies the least. Below are the maximum sentences and offense examples for each felony class. In most cases, the judge can order any sentence up to the maximum. However, if a minimum sentence or sentence enhancement applies, the sentencing parameters can change (discussed in the next section).
A class "A" felony is the most serious type of felony, punishable by life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. First-degree murder and sexual abuse resulting in serious injury are class A felonies.
A class "B" felony is typically punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Second-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and vehicular homicide involving an intoxicated driver are examples of class B felonies.
Class "C" felonies are usually punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of between $1,370 and $13,660. Examples of class C felonies include voluntary manslaughter, first-degree theft, and reckless use of a firearm resulting in serious injuries.
A class "D" felony, the least serious type of felony in Iowa, is normally punishable by up to 5 years' imprisonment and a fine of between $1,025 and $10,245. Forgery, second-degree criminal mischief, and extortion are class D felonies.
The sentences listed above section are maximum penalties. Judges cannot impose a sentence term that's higher than the maximum unless a sentencing enhancement applies. In addition, Iowa law might impose a minimum sentence or fine, or require a defendant to serve a minimum percentage of their sentence before becoming parole eligible. These provisions are discussed in more detail below.
Iowa law also provides minimum sentences for certain felony offenders. If a minimum sentence applies, the judge typically must impose a sentence that falls between the minimum and maximum.
For instance, judges must sentence habitual felony offenders convicted of a class C or D felony to a minimum prison term of three years. Habitual felony offenders have two or more prior felonies. Another example of a minimum sentence applies to forcible felony convictions involving dangerous weapons. Forcible felonies include felony child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, first-degree arson, and first-degree burglary. Defendants who fall under this category face a five-year minimum sentence.
Some criminal statutes also impose fines for specific crimes, which may include a minimum fine. For example, a court can, in addition to a prison sentence of up to 25 years, impose a fine of $5,000 to $100,000 for a defendant convicted of selling between 100 grams and 1 kilogram of heroin.
Felony sentencing enhancements increase the maximum sentence that judges may impose. For example, those convicted of a class C or D felony who are habitual felony offenders (having two or more prior felonies) face a maximum sentence of 15 years, rather than the general maximum sentences of 5 and 10 years. As another example, committing a third or subsequent drug offense can subject a defendant to a sentence of three times the maximum. A number of sentencing enhancements apply to repeat sex offenses.
Once the judge imposes the sentence, the law may also require defendants to serve a percentage of their maximum term before becoming eligible for parole. For example, anyone convicted of a felony who has a prior forcible felony conviction (defined above) must serve 50% of their maximum term before becoming parole eligible. For certain drug offenses, one-third of the sentence must be served. Other examples include:
A felony conviction in Iowa can mean a long prison sentence, stiff fines, and a long-lasting criminal record. Defendants who already have a criminal record can face especially harsh punishments. If you face felony charges, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. A good lawyer can help you understand the legal process and make the best arguments to protect your rights.
(Iowa Code §§ 124.401, 124.411, 124.413, 902.7, 902.8, 902.11, 902.2, 902.13, 902.14 (2022).)