The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled Iowa law does not allow judges to hand down a criminal sentence that includes the seizure of bail money.
In 2013, Patrick Letscher and another man were arrested in Forest City and accused of stealing a pickup. Letscher paid a $2,000 cash bond and was released. Letscher eventually pleaded guilty to the theft charge. A district court judge ordered him to forfeit the $2,000 to pay part of his fine for the crime and court costs. He appealed.
Iowa’s supreme court notes it’s been common practice for judges at the state and federal level to order “pretrial” bail money be used to pay “court-imposed” fines and restitution. But the court’s opinion says in 1976 the legislature rewrote Iowa’s criminal code, so that bail money cannot be used to pay restitution and other court-ordered obligations.