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What Is the Law on Riot in Iowa and What Are the Punishments for It?


Title XVI - Criminal Law and Procedure - of the updated Iowa Code describes the acts that amount to a Riot under Law. Riot is listed in Chapter 723 that concerns Public Disorder. Riot is a punishable offense in Iowa and the individual guilty of the crime faces imprisonment.

How Iowa Code Describes Riot?

According to Chapter 723.1 of the Iowa Code, a gathering becomes a riot when:

  • There are more than 3 individuals in the gathering; and
  • The individuals assemble in a violent manner; and
  • The assembly causes disturbance to others; and

o The assembly indulges in violence or the use of any force that is unlawful by nature, against another individual; or

o Any of the individuals in the assembly uses violence or unlawful force against another individual; or

o Any of the individuals in the assembly causes property damage.

Chapter 723.1 also describes the acts that make the individual committing them guilty of riot. An individual becomes guilty of committing the crime of a riot if the following conditions are true:

  • The individual joins the riot willingly; or
  • The individual remains a willing participant of the riot;
  • The individual is a part, or remains a part, of the riot, either willingly or with sufficient proof that the individual has been a part willingly;
Iowa Riot Law

An individual indulging in the above acts is guilty of committing an aggravated misdemeanor according to Iowa Code.

An individual involved in the crime of riot will have committed another crime if the individual fails to disperse upon the orders of a law enforcement officer. The Iowa Code explains this crime in Chapter 723 – Public Disorder.

Chapter 723.3 defines the crime of Failure to Disperse. Accordingly, an individual is guilty of Failure to Disperse if the following conditions are true:

  • The individual is part of a riot or an unlawful assembly; or
  • The individual is in the immediate vicinity of an unlawful gathering or riot; and
  • The individual is within the hearing distance of a peace officer’s command to disperse; and
  • The individual refuses to obey the peace officer’s order.

An individual guilty of Failure to Disperse commits a simple misdemeanor under Iowa law.


Punishments for Riot Under Iowa Code

The crime of riot is considered an Aggravated Misdemeanor under Iowa Code. An Aggravated Misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor.

Chapter 903 – Misdemeanors – of the Iowa Code specifies the punishment for an individual guilty of an Aggravated Misdemeanor. According to Section 903.1, an individual convicted of an Aggravated Misdemeanor is punishable by:

  • A term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years; and
  • A fine between $625 and $6, 250

The related crime of Failure to Disperse is considered a Simple Misdemeanor. According to Section 903.1, an individual guilty of a Simple Misdemeanor is punishable by:

  • A fine of amount $65 at the minimum and $625 at the maximum, and/ or;
  • Imprisonment for a period of not more than 30 days.

Iowa Riot Law
No Defense of Justification Available for a Riot Participant

Chapter 704 of the Iowa Code describes the defenses available to those accused of using deadly or reasonable force.

Section 704.6 describes conditions when the defense of justification is not available to an individual, and this includes the crime of riot.

According to Section 704.6, an individual participating in a riot, a forcible felony or a duel is not eligible for the Defense of Justification.


Statute of Limitations

Statute of Limitations refers to the period within which an individual charged with the crime of riot needs to be prosecuted. If the state fails to charge the individual within the specified period, then the viability of the charge becomes nil.

If the state starts court proceedings after the Statute of Limitations, then the accused can file a motion for dismissal of the charge.

Section 802.3 of the Iowa Code stipulates the Statute of Limitations for an Aggravated Misdemeanor. An individual accused of a Crime of Riot, an Aggravated Misdemeanor, needs to be charged with the crime within 3 years after the commission of the crime.

An individual accused of Failure to Disperse, a Simple Misdemeanor, needs to be charged with the crime within 1 year of commission, as stipulated in Section 802.4 of the Iowa Code.


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