Tama County Attorney
100 West High Street, P.O. Box 6
Toledo, Iowa 52342
Telephone 641-484-3020
Fax 641-484-5758

Brent D. Heeren, Tama County Attorney
Geneva Williams, Assistant Tama County Attorney -

Ronda Burnes
Lisa Heitman


Your County Attorney is the legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer for your county.

Being a Witness, Your Duties, Your Rights

Victim Witness Program

Important Links

The County Attorney DOES
Prosecute all violations of state criminal laws and county ordinances.

Provide legal advice to the Board of Supervisors and county and township officers concerning county matters.

Represent an defend the state, county and its officers in officially related cases.

Recover all monies (debts, fines, penalties, etc.) owing to the state or county.

Present all mental health commitment proceedings and all juvenile delinquency and child in need of assistance cases.

There are both full-time and part-time County Attorneys in Iowa. Roughly two-thirds of all County Attorneys are part-time and may handle private legal work in addition to their official duties.

Your County Attorney in his or her official capacity,

Give legal advice to or represent private groups or persons.

File lawsuits for private persons or defend them against lawsuits, including actions for dissolution of marriage.

Prepare wills, deeds or other legal documents for private individuals.

Being a Witness, Your Duties, Your Rights
Iowa County Attorneys Association
This pamphlet is intended to familiarize you with the criminal court system in Iowa and your rights and obligations if you become a victim or witness.
If you have specific questions or special needs, call the office of your local County Attorney. Participation of citizens as witnesses in criminal prosecutions is essential in the fight against crime. Without the testimony of witnesses and victims, a prosecutor's case will fall. Your help is both necessary and appreciated.

Keep in Touch
If you change address or phone number, contact the Sheriff or Police Department investigating your case. If the county Attorney filed a charge, notify that office. If you have been subpoenaed, call the County Attorney’s Office before you go to Court to make sure you don’t make an unnecessary trip. Court cases are often rescheduled for a variety of reasons.

On rare occasions, witnesses are threatened or harassed. Tampering with witnesses and harassment are crimes. If this happens, contact the appropriate law enforcement department and your County Attorney.

Pre-Trial Release of Defendant
Almost all Defendants are released prior to trial. To ensure the safety of others and the appearance of the Defendant at trial, release is subject to conditions imposed by the court. The conditions may include posting money (bail), hours, travel restrictions, and others. Your County Attorney may ask the court to amend the conditions if necessary.

Knowingly making false statement of material fact of falsely denying knowledge of a material fact is perjury, a felony. If you are aware of possible perjury, contact the appropriate enforcement agency or your County Attorney’s Office immediately.

Giving Statements
Unless you receive a subpoena, you need not talk to a defense attorney, the Defendant, or anyone else connected with the defense. It’s all right to ask for identification before you agree to talk to anyone. If the defense wants your statement, they can subpoena you for a deposition (a formal sworn statement) at which the County Attorney will be present. If the Defendant requires a written statement, call your County Attorney.

Witnesses must appear and truthfully testify under oath when subpoenaed. A subpoena indicates where you should be and when. The prosecutor may ask you to report to the office of the County Attorney first. Bring your subpoena along with you so that you may claim your witness and mileage fees after you testify.

If you have any questions about your testimony, call your County Attorney.

Your Employer
When you receive a subpoena, check with your employer to find out what the company policy is regarding you appearances in Court both before trial and at trial. Policies vary widely and can depend on different circumstances. If you would like, your prosecutor handling the case can call your employer or provide a letter, which will explain the need for your appearance.

Witness Fees
Witnesses are entitled to $10 for each full day attendance and $5 for each attendance less than full day, plus an allowance for each mile you traveled. In most counties, take your subpoena to the Clerk of Court to claim your fees. If otherwise
your County Attorney will help you.

Special Services
There are a variety of special services provided for persons who are victims or witnesses. They include such varied things as reparations, day care, parking, counseling, and others. You may contact your local prosecutor, your local Department of Human Services or a local low enforcement agency if you need assistance in identifying or contacting providers of these service. Services vary greatly from county to county.

Property Loss and Recovery
If you have had property stolen, report it to the nearest law enforcement agency and your insurance company immediately. If it is recovered it may be held for evidence. If you have a real need for your property, call the Department that has
your property or the County Attorney. In some cases, you may have to file a claim with the Clerk of Court to get your property back. Usually evidence is returned after the completion of sentencing. The Court may order convicted Defendants to pay restitution to victims. In case of violent crime, you may also file a claim for
reparations with the State. Ask your prosecutor about the program.

Some Definitions
Defense is a defendant or accused person, the Defendant's attorney or their representative, such as an investigator.

An information or indictment a formal accusation charging a person with a serious crime.

Minutes of Evidence are a short summary of your expected testimony at a trial. The Minutes may be sent to you. If they are incorrect, call your County Attorney immediately to clear up any inaccuracies.

The Prosecutor is your local County Attorney or assistant who prosecutes criminal cases in the name of the State of Iowa in the District Court of your county. The prosecutor determines what charges if any should be filed.

Reparation is payment from a State program to reimburse innocent victims for medical expenses, lost income and other losses resulting from violent crimes.

Restitution is a payment by a Defendant to the victim ordered by the Court as part of Defendant's sentence and based on Defendant ability to pay.

Sentencing is the responsibility of the Judge. The Judge decides what penalties to inflict on a guilty defendant. A prosecutor may only recommend penalties to the Judge.

A Subpoena is an official Court Order commanding your appearance. It tells you where and when you must be present. Failure to do so can result in being found in contempt of Court and being liable for money damages. If you can't appear as
directed, call your County Attorney immediately.

Victim Witness Program

Traditionally, the Criminal Justice System in this Country has been offender-oriented, primarily concerned with the apprehension, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation of wrongdoers. However, the focus has begun to shift in the last decade, especially in the last few years, towards victims and their rights. This handbook has been developed to provide basic information about the long, complex and sometimes confusing legal process. The Victim Witness Program is available to answer questions about the general process or the particular criminal case in which you are involved. Please feel free to contact the program at 484-3020 from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday if you have questions.

Basic Steps of the Criminal Justice System

This is the basic process followed, but not all cases go through each step. Sometimes certain hearings can be waived and sometimes the case is continued (delayed). The whole process may take two to six months or even longer.

Crime Occurs
Criminal cases cannot be prosecuted unless witnesses come forward to testify. By your willingness to be involved, you are working with other citizens, the police, the County Attorney and the Courts to reduce crime.

If the suspect was not arrested at the time the crime was committed, there are options that may happen. The Police/Sheriff's Department may continue with its investigation until they feel they have enough evidence to charge the suspect. If the Police/Sheriff's Department feel they already have enough evidence and cannot locate the suspect, a warrant may be issued for his/her arrest. Victims and witnesses may be called to police headquarters during the course of investigation and/or after the arrest of the suspect.

Basic Steps of the Criminal Justice System
Crime Occurs
Complaint and Affidavit Signed
Initial Appearance
Preliminary Hearing and or Information Filed
Guilty------------------------Plea-----------------Not Guilty
Discovery of Evidence
Jury Selection
----Not Guilty
Pre-Sentence Investigation
/             \

An arrest is made by the Police/Sheriff Department or a citation to appear in Court is issued. A report by the arresting officer is sent to the County Attorney's Office. The County Attorney evaluates the facts, circumstances and evidence in the case and determines if charges are to be filed. If you have sustained damages, medical bills, lost wages, etc., submit the amount
of your losses, along with proof of payment or billing statements, as soon as possible to the Victim Witness Program. Make sure to identify who the defendant is so they can be submitted to the proper case.

Initial Appearance
Persons held in custody must be taken before the Judge within 24 hours of arrest. The Initial Appearance assures that the individual was properly charged, that the Complaint and Affidavit on file is correct, that an Attorney is appointed for the defendant (if necessary) and that a date is set for the preliminary hearing. If the bail amount was not set in the arrest warrant, it is set at this time.

Preliminary Hearing or Trial Information
The purpose of the Preliminary Hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to justify holding the defendant. The State presents evidence showing the defendant probably committed the crime. However, the Preliminary Hearing almost never happens because the same purpose is fulfilled by the filing of the Trial Information (formal charge against the defendant).

The Arraignment is the formal accusation of the defendant where a plea of guilty or not guilty is entered. The defendant does not need to be present if a written arraignment is filed on their behalf by their Attorney.

The majority of the time the defendant will plead not guilty at arraignment and the Judge will then set a trial date. A defendant may change the plea to guilty at any time. Most defendants eventually choose to plead guilty.

Discovery of Evidence

The Defense Attorney has a right to "discover" the State's evidence in the case. However, defendants do not have to tell the prosecutor anything about their defense unless the defendant gives a deposition. Discovery can include viewing evidentiary documents and taking depositions (interviews under oath) of the State's witnesses. The defendant has a right to a speedy trial (right to have the case tried within 90 days of the filing of the trial
information). Victims and witnesses will be contacted, or may receive a subpoena, if the defense wishes to take their depositions. You may request from the Victim Witness Program information on how to testify simply by calling and scheduling an appointment with the Victim Witness Coordinator or a Volunteer of the program. If you need transportation, the Victim Witness Program will assist you.

Jury Selection
A group of people are chosen at random from public lists, such as voter registration lists. From this original group, twelve are chosen to serve. The County Attorney and the Defense Counsel choose the make-up of the Jury. Victims and witnesses are not allowed in the courtroom at this procedure or until after they testify.

Once the Jury has been chosen and sworn in, the trial proceeds. Here again, not all trials proceed in the same manner. The Victim Witness Program will prepare you for trial and accompany you to trial. Once a criminal case has been filed and you are a victim/witness, you have a legal obligation to appear and testify. If you do not have transportation, the Victim Witness Program will assist you.

A trial usually consists of the following steps:
Opening Statements (State's and then the Defense's)
State's Witnesses and Evidence
Defense Witnesses and Evidence
Closing Arguments
Court's Instructions to the Jury
Jury's Deliberation (decision)
Jury's Verdict
     1. Hung Jury (cannot come to a unanimous verdict)
     2. Not Guilty
     3. Guilty

Pre-Sentence Investigation
After the plea or verdict of guilty, the offender may be referred by the Judge to a probation officer who interviews the offender to determine his special problems, such as drugs/alcohol or a psychological evaluation. The officer then submits a report to the Judge with recommendations regarding sentencing of the offender. This is when victims have the right to Complete a Victim Impact Statement. This document allows you to express your views about the case to the Sentencing Judge.

Victims and witnesses have the right to attend the Sentencing Hearing. Sentencing usually takes place two to six weeks after a plea or verdict of guilty. All crimes are classified in degrees of either a "felony" or misdemeanor." The most common types of sentences imposed are:
    1. Entry of Conviction and Imposition of sentence --- defendant must serve the sentence that the Judge imposes.
    2. Entry of Conviction and Suspended sentence --- Judge pronounces sentence and then suspends all or part of it. If the defendant then successfully completes a period of probation, he/she will not have to serve the remainder of the sentence.
    3. Deferred Judgment-- Judge does not pronounce a sentence and instead places the defendant on probation. If the defendant successfully completes a term of probation, the crime will not count against the defendant on his/her criminal record.


Probation provides control, supervision and rehabilitation for defendants. The defendant must report to a probation officer regularly and must follow specific rules and conditions of the Probation. Probation also gives the defendant a chance to make restitution more quickly if any damages were suffered by the victim of the crime.

If the criminal is incarcerated in a state facility, the corrections authorities acquire jurisdiction over the prisoner. However, the Judge can reconsider a sentence of incarceration within 30 days (misdemeanors) or within 90 days (felonies). After that period has elapsed, the corrections authorities can set a date of release at their discretion within the minimum and maximum limits set by the legislature. Victims are allowed input into the parole hearings. Victims may present information to the board by written statements or personal interview. Victims may also attend the scheduled parole hearings in person and will be afforded the opportunity to give testimony.

You have a right to know how the system works. If at any time during the progress of your case you do not understand what is happening or why, ask questions. You are always welcome to contact the Victim Witness Program at 484-3020.

On occasions, witnesses are threatened or harassed by the suspect or family members/friends of the suspect. Tampering with or harassing a witness are crimes. If this happens to you, contact the police and the County Attorney's Office immediately. There are procedures we can take to protect you.

To be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal process.

To be free from threats of discharge, from your employer because you are subpoenaed by the prosecutor for Court.

To know when you must appear in Court.

To register with the County & be notified when the defendant is released from jail.

To receive restitution from the defendant for economic losses resulting from the crime.

To consult with the prosecutor in order to give your views of this crime and know of court procedures regarding your case.

To make a written Victim Impact Statement at the time of sentencing or verbally tell the Judge how you were impacted by the crime.

To apply to the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program which pays for medical expenses and loss of income in cases of violent crimes.

If you are a victim of a violent crime in which the defendant is sent to prison, to register with the Department of Corrections and the Board of Parole so you can be notified of parole hearings and the inmate's release.

To receive notice if the defendant escapes custody while awaiting trial.

Assessor - Attorney - Auditor - Board of Supervisors
County Social Services - Conservation Board - Emergency Management
Engineer - General Relief - Planning & Zoning - Public Health & Home Care
Recorder - Sanitarian & Environmental Health - Sheriff - Treasurer - Veteran's Affairs
Helpful Links - Home

Tama County Copyright 2023