How Domestic Assaults Are Handled in Iowa

Iowa Code 236: What It Means for You

Couples often get into verbal arguments. Sometimes, these arguments result in a phone call to the cops in the hopes that the police will come and mediate the situation. Once the officers arrive, however, the phone caller realizes that the cops will not help the situation as they had thought. At this point, it is too late.


When law enforcement gets called to an Iowa residence for a domestic violence matter, they are trained to investigate “who assaulted who” before making an arrest. The officers must inform the parties that they are required to make an arrest if any type or degree of domestic assault is suspected.

Under Iowa Code Section 236.12(2):

  • A peace officer may, with or without a warrant, arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic abuse assault has been committed but did not result in any injury to the alleged victim.
  • A peace officer shall, with or without a warrant, arrest a person if the officer has probable cause to believe that a domestic abuse assault has been committed and resulted in a bodily injury to the alleged victim.

In other words, a police officer is not required to arrest a suspect in a domestic violence situation if no injury occurred. More often than not, however, the police tell the couple that they must make an arrest since they have probable cause to believe that a domestic assault has occurred. The officers will “investigate" the situation and pick a suspect to arrest and take to jail. These situations tend to frustrate defense attorneys who watch bodycam videos of officers giving false information to their clients.

No-Contact Order Rules in Iowa

Once a domestic assault arrest is made, the defendant is brought before a judge and a no-contact order is placed against them, preventing the defendant from communicating with their partner (the alleged victim). Consequently, the defendant cannot live in their own homes. They only get a one-time visit with law enforcement to pack their belongings and leave. If the defendant violates their no-contact order, they could face a minimum of 7 days in jail on their own dime. Believe it or not, it costs an average of $70 a day to stay in the county jail.

Another result of the no-contact order is the defendant cannot see their children in most situations because the children often reside with the spouse, who is considered the “protected party” on the no-contact order. The defendant also cannot use a third party to communicate with the protected party, even if they only want to pick up their children from their partner’s home. Any form of outreach is a violation of the no-contact order.

Simply put, it is extremely difficult for defendants to see their children with a no-contact order in place. In nearly all cases, the defendant may only communicate with the protected party through an attorney.

Where We Stand

We have handled countless domestic assault cases in Iowa and understand the stress that our clients experience. Defendants essentially have to completely change their lifestyles until their charges are sorted out. Our team understands that time is of the essence, as the longer a family is divided, the harder it can be to work things out in the future.

As strong advocates for keeping families and couples united when circumstances permit, we don’t believe extensive no-contact orders are necessary when the parties no longer want them in place or when the domestic assault was relatively minor. Instead, we believe no-contact orders should apply to those who want them or when the alleged victim was seriously injured in the assault. The state of Iowa should not get involved in people’s lives over every little issue. While we know that bad domestic situations call for arrests sometimes, we also know that those bad situations don’t occur nearly enough for police officers to make arrests in every situation.

That being said, we want to emphasize that protected parties who fear for their lives or suffered serious injuries should request a no-contact order to remain in place. In about 80% of domestic assault cases we’ve seen, however, the defendant and protected party want to get back together and drop the charges.

Facing Domestic Assault Charges? You’ve Come to the Right Place.

If you were charged with domestic assault in Iowa, it is a good idea to contact our lawyer for effective and efficient representation. If you are the protected party and want a no-contact order canceled or modified, you should also get in touch with our attorney to expedite the process. We can advise you on whether or not you can get the no-contact order terminated or modified, or at least predict what your chances are.

Do not hesitate to contact us online or at (515) 996-4441 regarding your domestic assault situation. We would be happy to answer your questions!

Related Posts
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  • Civil Protective Orders vs. No-Contact Orders Read More
  • How to Approach Domestic Abuse Assault Charges Read More