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Polk County Justice Center
222 5th Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309
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Jail Court

In 1991, a full time court opened at the jail to speed up court appearances for prisoners and help alleviate jail overcrowding. The Polk County Attorney’s Office assigns one full time attorney and one legal assistant to the Jail Court. Within 24 hours after the arrest of a defendant, he/she must be brought before a judge for an initial appearance. This initial appearance usually takes place in Jail Court. During the initial appearance, the defendant is informed of the right to counsel, and counsel is appointed if the defendant cannot afford counsel. The judge makes a determination if there were reasonable grounds (probable cause) to arrest the defendant. Bond is then set, based on a preset bond schedule prepared by the Iowa Supreme Court. The suspect may qualify for pretrial release and the judge may authorize the release at that time. The defendant is informed that he/she is not required to make a statement and that any statement could be used against them. The defendant is then informed of the right to a preliminary hearing. In addition to the initial appearance, various hearings are held at Jail Court. These hearings include expedited arraignment of prisoners who because of the nature of their allegded offenses or because of their criminal history are unable to qualify for a pre-trial release program. By expediting their cases, these defendants spend fewer days in jail prior to trial, thus reducing the demand for scarce bed space at the jail. Jail Court is not open to the general public; however, a video conferencing unit broadcasts all Jail Court proceedings to the Polk County Courthouse public viewing area.

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