Frequently Asked Questions

To file a criminal complaint (charges), you need to contact your local law enforcement center. They will initiate an investigation and determine if there is sufficient probable cause (evidence) to pursue a charge. Charges will ultimately be determined by the Madison County Attorney’s Office.

Madison County Sheriff
Address: 1012 North 1st Street, Winterset, IA 50273
Phone: (515) 462-3575

Winterset Police Department
Address: 1012 N 1st St, Winterset, IA 50273
Phone: (515) 462-1423

Earlham Police Department
Address: 140 South Chestnut Avenue, Earlham, IA
Phone: (515) 758-2281

  1. Initial appearance: An initial appearance is a criminal defendant’s first appearance in court to hear the charges read, to be advised of his or her rights, and to have bail determined.
  2. Preliminary hearing: A criminal proceeding (conducted by a Magistrate) to determine there is sufficient evidence to prosecute an accused person. The proceedings is before a judicial officer in which the officer must decide whether a crime was committed, whether the crime occurred within the territorial jurisdiction of the court, and whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime.
  3. Arraignment: An arraignment is an initial proceeding whereby the defendant is brought before the court to hear the charges and enter a plea.
  4. Pre-trial conference: A pre-trial conference is an informal meeting at which opposing attorneys confer with the judge, to work toward the disposition of the case by discussing matter of evidence and narrowing the issues that will be tried.
  5. Deposition: A deposition is a witness’s out of court testimony. The deposition testimony is taken under oath orally while being recorded by a court reporter.
  6. Trial: A trial is a formal judicial examination of evidence and determination of legal claims in an adversary proceeding. A trial may be heard before a judge or jury.
You may check the status of a case by searching online at or contacting the Madison County Clerk of Court at (515) 462-4451.
No Contact Orders are initiated with criminal charges filed by law enforcement or may be obtained through a civil proceeding.
To cancel or modify a No Contact Order, you must make application to the court and file it electronically via EDMS:
Click here to download the proper form.

The Madison County Attorney’s Office cannot recommend a privately retained attorney. You may click here for help on how to find an attorney:

If you cannot afford an attorney, you may apply for a court appointed attorney (Download Affidavit for Appointment of Counsel form) or contact Iowa Legal Aid at

The Madison County Attorney’s Office cannot distribute criminal histories. Criminal histories may be obtained through the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations: