Misdemeanor and Felony Assault Laws in Iowa

Learn how Iowa defines and punishes assault crimes.

By , Attorney · UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 7/15/2024

A person who assaults another in Iowa can face misdemeanor or felony penalties. Iowa law defines assault broadly to include harming another but also attempting or threatening harm. The penalty level depends on the circumstances of the offense and the defendant's intent. Read on to learn how Iowa defines and punishes assault crimes.

What Is an Assault Crime in Iowa?

Iowa law defines an assault as any of the following:

  • any act intended to cause pain or injury to another, where the aggressor has the apparent ability to carry out the act
  • any act intended to result in offensive physical contact or place another in fear of imminent offensive physical contact, where the aggressor has the apparent ability to carry out the act, or
  • an act of intentionally pointing or displaying a dangerous weapon at someone in a threatening manner.

Actual injury is not required for a crime to be called an assault, nor is actual physical contact. However, causing or intending to cause injuries can result in harsher charges.

Assault Definitions

The severity of the assault charges or penalties depends, in part, on the level or risk of harm inflicted or intended. Below are definitions to aid in distinguishing Iowa's different assault crimes.

Bodily injury is any physical pain, illness, or impairment of a physical condition, such as bruises, cuts, sprains, or abrasions.

Serious injuries create a risk of death, cause serious permanent disfigurement, result in a prolonged loss or impairment of a body part or organ, or cause a disabling mental illness. Examples of serious injuries might include gunshot wounds, stab wounds, broken bones, damage to internal organs, serious concussions, or PTSD. The statute also states that serious injuries include any injury to a child requiring surgery and general anesthesia, as well as skull fractures, rib fractures, and fractures of long bones of children younger than four.

Dangerous weapons include devices designed to cause death or inflict injuries (such as guns and knives) or devices capable of such results by how they're used (such as crowbars or baseball bats). The law lists the following examples: pistols, revolvers, firearms, daggers, razors, stilettos, switchblade knives, Tasers, and stun guns.

Examples of Assault Crimes

Examples of assault include hitting, kicking, slapping, or shoving another. It can also include shooting or stabbing a person. Threats and attempts to do any of these acts are also assaults. Violent shaking, twisting an arm, raising a clenched fist, and throwing a vase at another would also constitute assault.

(Iowa Code §§ 702.1, 702.7, 702.18, 708.1 (2024).)

Misdemeanor Assault Crimes and Penalties in Iowa

In Iowa, misdemeanor assaults include those where the defendant:

  • causes offensive contact with another (such as shoving)
  • causes bodily injuries to another (such as bruises, pain, sprains)
  • intends to inflict a serious injury (but doesn't)
  • uses or displays a dangerous weapon, or
  • causes mental harm to another.

Iowa has three levels of misdemeanor assaults.

Simple misdemeanor penalties apply when the crime involves no injuries, no weapons, and no intent to cause serious harm. The maximum penalty for a simple misdemeanor is 30 days in jail and a fine of $105 to $855.

Serious misdemeanor penalties come into play when the defendant causes the victim bodily injuries or mental harm. This misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of $430 to $2,565.

Aggravated misdemeanor penalties involve assaults where the defendant intended to inflict serious injuries or used or displayed a dangerous weapon. A defendant convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor faces up to two years of jail time and a fine of $855 to $8,540.

(Iowa Code § 708.2 (2024).)

Felony Assault Crimes and Penalties in Iowa

A prosecutor can file felony assault charges in Iowa when the defendant:

  • causes a victim serious injuries
  • commits the assault during another felony (such as robbery or burglary)
  • intends to cause serious injuries to a victim and causes injuries
  • intimidates others by discharging or using a dangerous weapon, or
  • uses or displays a dangerous weapon against protected victims.

Felony assaults generally result in class C or D felonies. Class D felonies carry up to five years of prison time and a fine of $1,025 to $10,245. Class C felonies come with the possibility of 10 years in prison and a $1,370 to $13,660 fine. Below are the various types of felony assault crimes in Iowa.

Felony Assault

A person commits a class D felony by causing another serious injuries, without the intent to cause such harm. Felony assault also results when a defendant uses or displays a deadly weapon against a pregnant victim. For these charges, the defendant must know or should know the victim is pregnant.

Assault During a Felony

An assault committed during the commission of another felony (other than sexual abuse) is a class C felony if serious injuries result and a class D felony if no serious injuries result.

Willful Injury

A defendant who intends to cause serious injuries to a victim and causes harm commits a felony. It's a class D felony if the victim suffers bodily injuries and a class C felony if the victim suffers serious injuries.

Intimidation With a Dangerous Weapon

Shooting at, in, or into an occupied building or vehicle or within an assembly of people is called "intimidation with a dangerous weapon." This crime also occurs when a person shoots, throws, launches, or discharges any other dangerous weapon into or within these occupied areas.

This offense carries class D felony penalties if it places individuals in reasonable fear of serious injuries or the defendant threatens such harm. A prosecutor can file class C felony charges if they can also prove the defendant intended to injure others or provoke fear or anger.

(Iowa Code §§ 708.2, 708.3, 708.4, 708.6 (2024).)

Enhanced Penalties in Iowa for Assaults of Protected Victims

Certain misdemeanor and felony assaults carry enhanced penalties if the defendant targets protected classes of victims.

Assault on Protected Employees and Occupations

Iowa law increases assault penalties by one level when a defendant knowingly assaults a police officer, first responder, corrections employee, jailer, military member, health care provider, or certain state employees. So, for instance, an assault against a firefighter resulting in bodily injuries would increase from a serious misdemeanor to an aggravated misdemeanor. (Iowa Code § 708.3A (2024).)

Assault in Violation of Individual Rights (Hate Crimes)

It's considered a hate crime to assault someone based on their religion, sex, sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, political affiliation, age, or disability. This crime extends to targeting another person based on their association with a protected class of persons. Committing a hate crime increases misdemeanor assault penalties by one level. (Iowa Code §§ 708.2C, 729A.2 (2024).)

Assault of an Older Person or Domestic Assault

Assaulting an older individual (age 60 and older) or committing domestic abuse assault carries increased penalties and mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenses. Learn more in our article on Iowa Domestic Violence Laws.

(Iowa Code §§ 708.2A, 708.2D (2024).)

Defenses to Assault Charges in Iowa

A person facing assault charges can fight the charges in several ways, including by poking holes in the prosecution's case or by raising an affirmative defense.

Self-defense. A defendant might claim self-defense or defense of others if the alleged victim started the altercation or was about to. To be successful in raising this defense, the defendant can only use as much force as is reasonably necessary to defend against actual or imminent violence. (Iowa Code § 704.3 (2024).)

Reasonable doubt. The defense might also try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by arguing the prosecution failed to prove the required intent or injuries. In this case, the defense might be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.

Getting Legal Advice and Representation

If you face assault charges, contact a criminal defense attorney. A local attorney can help you understand the charges and what's at stake, discuss options, and defend your rights. Even if the charges seem minor, having a criminal record for any assault can result in time behind bars, fines, and fees, as well as impact your ability to obtain employment or housing in the future.

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