Appealing Weapons Permit Decisions
Decisions of County Sheriffs or the Commissioner of Public Safety, denying an application for, suspending, or revoking permits to carry weapons or annual permits to acquire pistols or revolvers may be appealed to the Administrative Hearings Division pursuant to Section 724.21A of the Iowa Code and Chapter 481-11 of the Iowa Administrative Code. Individuals appealing such decisions ("Appellants") may find the following information useful, but are advised to closely review the relevant statute and administrative rules discussed below. Appellants are not required to be represented by an attorney but should seriously consider obtaining legal advice or representation.
NOTE: Effective July 1, 2017, if the Sheriff's or Commissioner's decision is affirmed in an administrative hearing or on subsequent judicial review or if the Appellant withdraws or dismisses the appeal or judicial review action, the Appellant shall be required to pay the Sheriff's or Commissioner's reasonable attorney fees and court costs. Conversely, if the Appellant prevails on the appeal and it is determined that the Appellant is eligible to be issued or possess the permit that was denied, suspended, or revoked, the Appellant shall be entitled to an award of the Appellant's reasonable attorney fees and court cost. More information about the award of attorney fees and court costs is described below.
Filing an Appeal
Appeals must be filed with the Administrative Hearings Division within 30 days of the receipt of the decision of the Sheriff or Commissioner of Public Safety. The appeal must include: (1) a written statement that clearly states the appellant's reasons rebutting the denial, suspension, or revocation; (2) a copy of the Sheriff's or Commissioner's written denial, suspension, or revocation; and (3) the $10 filing fee (Checks may be made ouf to the "Department of Inspections and Appeals."). Appellants may also include any additional supporting information relevant to the appeal. The appeal must be delivered to the Division by first-class mail, courier service, or personal delivery at its offices:
Administrative Hearings Division
Wallace State Office Building, Third Floor
502 East Ninth Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
A copy of the appeal must also be served on the County Sheriff or the Commissioner who made the decision to deny, suspense, or revoke the permit. Any appeal that does not meet these requirements, which are further detailed in Iowa Code § 724.21A and Iowa Administrative Code § 481-11.2, may be denied.
NOTE: Appeals of a denial based on an adverse determination by the national instant criminal background check system are not considered by the Division. More information on those federal appeals is available from the FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System Website.
After receiving a valid appeal, the Division will issue a Notice of Hearing that schedules the time and place of the hearing and provides other details about the proceeding. The hearing will be scheduled within 45 days of the date the appeal is received by the Division. The Sheriff or Commissioner will provide the Appellant and Division a copy of all documents used to make its decision.
The appellant and the law enforcement agency must send a witness list and a copy of any documents or other exhibits to be considered in the hearing to the Division and the other party at least five days before the hearing. Exhibits may be mailed, faxed, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If an appellant decides he or she no longer wishes to appeal the decision, the appellant may file a written request to withdraw the appeal. Likewise, the County Sheriff or Commissioner of Public Safety may request a dismissal of the appeal by agreeing to grant the entire relief sought by the appellant, such as for example, granting the previously denied permit.
The hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge (ALJ) employed by the Division. Most hearings are conducted by toll-free conference call. The notice of hearing will provide instructions on how to participate in the call. It is important to follow the instructions to participate in the call at the time of the hearing because a party who fails to participate may have a default order entered against them or the hearing may be conducted without the party.
A party may request an in-person hearing by filing a request at least five days before the hearing. All in-person hearings will be conducted at the Division Offices in Des Moines. An ALJ may permit one party to appear in person and the other by telephone, upon that party's request.
At the hearing, the ALJ will allow each party to present evidence and arguments in support of the party's case. The County Sheriff or Commissioner of Public Safety has the burden of proof and will proceed first. The ALJ may first ask the parties to present opening statements, which is a chance to provide a summary of what the case is about. The opening statement is not evidence and an ALJ may proceed directly to hearing the evidence in less-complex cases.
After any opening statement, the parties will present their evidence. The County Sheriff or Commissioner of Public Safety will first present any witnesses or exhibits. Each witness will be sworn in and testify one at a time, and the appellant will have the opportunity to ask each witness questions when the witness's testimony is complete. The ALJ may also asks questions. After the Sheriff or Commissioner has presented all its evidence, the appellant may present any evidence. Again, each witness will testify one at a time and the Sheriff or Commissioner and ALJ may question the witnesses. The appellant may also testify on his or her own behalf.
Once all parties have submitted their evidence, the ALJ will ask for closing arguments. This is an opportunity to summarize the case, including any evidence previously submitted. A closing argument is not evidence, and a party may choose to waive closing argument. After any closing arguments, the ALJ will typically indicate that the record is closed and the hearing is concluded.
The Administrative Law Judge's Decision
After the hearing has concluded, the administrative law judge will issue a written decision rescinding or sustaining the denial, suspension, or revocation of the permit. The judge will not typically announce the decision during the hearing. The written decision must include findings of fact and conclusions of law as part of the decision, shall determine whether a party is entitled to an award of attorney fees, and will typically be issued within 30 days of the hearing. The Administrative Law Judge's decision is not final for purposes of rehearing or seeking judicial review until the administrative law judge has issued a written decision determining the amount of any attorney fees to be awarded or determining that no attorney fees are to be awarded.
Consideration of Reasonable Attorney Fees
Within 14 days of the date of a decision in which the administrative law judge determines that a party is entitled to an award of attorney fees, the party must file a request for attorney fees and documentation supporting the request or the party may instead file a joint statement with the other party agreeing to the amount of reasonable attorney fees. If no request for attorney fees or joint statement is filed, the administrative law judge will enter an order determining that no attorney fees are to be awarded.
If a party files a request for attorney fees, the opposing party may file a resistance, including any relevant evidence, or a statement agreeing to the requested attorney fees. Either party may also request a hearing on the issue of reasonable attorney fees. The administrative law judge will then enter an order determining the reasonable attorney fees in the case.
A party who loses before the administrative law judge may request a rehearing by filing an application for rehearing with the Division within 20 days of the administrative law judge's final decision. The Administrative Law Judge's decision is not final until the administrative law judge has issued a written decision determining the amount of any attorney fees to be awarded or determining that no attorney fees are to be awarded. The request for rehearing must state the specific grounds for the rehearing and the relief sought. If the only relief sought relates to the award of attorney fees, the request must include any argument and relevant evidence to be considered on rehearing. If the administrative law judge does not grant the request within 20 days, the request is automatically denied. A party is not required to request a rehearing before appealing the decision to district court.
Appealing the Administrative Law Judge's Decision
A party who loses before the administrative law judge may appeal the decision to the district court by filing a petition for judicial review under Section 17A .19 of the Iowa Code within 30 days of the date of the administrative law judge's final decision. The Administrative Law Judge's decision is not final for purposes of seeking judicial review until the administrative law judge has issued a written decision determining the amount of any attorney fees to be awarded or determining that no attorney fees are to be awarded.
- Iowa Code § 724.21A
- Administrative Rules of Procedure for Appeals Involving Permits to Carry Weapons and Acquire Firearms
- Directory of Iowa County Sheriffs - Iowa State Sheriffs' and Deputies' Association
- Iowa Department of Public Safety - Weapons Permit Website
- FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System Website