Hancock County Attorney
David Solheim - Bio
855 State Street
P.O. Box 70
Garner, Iowa 50438-0070
Magistrate Court Report
The Hancock County Attorney is the legal representative for Hancock County.
The County Attorney is elected to a four-year term to serve as the county’s
legal advisor and chief law enforcement officer.
A County Attorney’s position may be full or part-time. The Hancock
County Board of Supervisors made the position full-time in July 2001.
A full-time county attorney may not engage in the private practice of
law – their only client is Hancock County. The Board’s decision
to make the position full-time was the result of careful consideration
of the needs of Hancock County. The transition allowed for the elimination
of the assistant county attorney position and a significant cost savings
to Hancock County.
Your County Attorney is required by statute to:
• Prosecute violations of state criminal laws and county ordinances;
• Provide legal advice to the Board of Supervisors and county and
township officers concerning county matters;
• Represent and defend the state, county and its officers in officially
• Recover money (debts, fines, penalties, child support, etc.) owing
to the state, county or school district;
• Represent the applicants for involuntary mental health commitments;
• Represent the Department of Human Services in child in need of
• Represent the State of Iowa in all juvenile delinquency and truancy
• Register crime victims and notify victims of their statutory rights.
Your County Attorney also:
• Monitors the County’s compliance with all federal, state
and local regulations;
• Assists departments in the development of policies, procedures
• Revises governing documents of Boards and commissions, such as
the Public Health Department and Veterans’ Affairs Commission;
• Prepares documents for land transfers from the County;
• Assists in personnel issues, such as employment contracts, workers
compensation, hiring decisions and termination issues;
• Conduct training for officials and employees;
• Prepare reference materials and training for the Sheriff’s
Office and Jail; and
• Develop a Bad Check Policy to curtail merchant losses from bad
Your County Attorney cannot:
• Give legal advice to or represent private groups or persons;
• File lawsuits for private persons or defend them against lawsuits,
including actions for dissolution of marriage, custody, bankruptcy;
• Prepare wills, deeds or other legal documents for private individuals;
• Advise a private group or person if they have a valid civil claim.
Fequently Asked Questions
Q: If I have been charged with a crime, should I get an attorney?
A: State and federal law provides the accused with the right to legal
representation; however, the decision whether or not to exercise that
right lies entirely with the accused. The County Attorney cannot advise
an accused on such a matter.
Q: If you are the County Attorney, aren’t you my lawyer
A: A County Attorney represents the County itself, not its individual
citizens. If a County Attorney’s position is classified as “part-time”
he or she may have a private practice in which they represent private
groups and individuals; however, that is not in their capacity as a county
attorney. A full-time county attorney (as we have in Hancock County) has
no private clients. For more details, see the section on Duties of the
Q: How do I get a restraining order to keep a person away from
A: Orders restricting a person’s ability to associate freely are
limited There are two types of orders that will keep a person from having
contact with another person. It is not possible to get such an Order unless
the very limited circumstances listed below are met.
1. No Contact Order (NCO) is an Order issued in a criminal
case for domestic abuse, harassment, stalking, sexual abuse OR any other
crime that has a “victim” (person who has suffered physical,
emotional or financial harm as a result of a crime committed in Iowa).
Only a judge can issue a NCO, and only in connection with a criminal offense
after the judge determines (1) there is probable cause to believe a public
offense has occurred, and (2) the presence of or contact with defendant
poses “a threat to the safety of the alleged victim,” the
victim’s household members or family. It is unlikely that a NCO
will be issued for burglary, theft, or property crime. Neither law enforcement
nor I can issue a NCO, but we are permitted to let the judge know our
opinion about whether issuance is appropriate.
2. Protective Order (PO) is a civil order entered under
chapter 236, a juvenile order under chapter 232 or as part of custody/divorce
under chapter 598. Law enforcement and I are not involved in the issuance
of a PO. Unless it is a request under chapter 236, the victim should contact
an attorney or file paperwork. The victim may request a PO under chapter
236 if the victim and perpetrator of the assault are married to or divorced
from one another, have a child together or reside together now or within
one year prior to the assault. The forms are available from any Clerk
of Court, but it is best to file them in the County you live in. Once
you fill out the forms, a judge will decide whether a temporary order
should be issued, and either way will set a hearing where you will need
to come in and present evidence to the Court about why you feel a PO is
necessary. The perpetrator will need to attend the hearing as well, but
there will be security present.
All parties to the order are bound by it. A protected party who violates
a NCO or PO may be prosecuted as well. Violating a NCO or PO is a crime
and also a contempt matter. If a violation occurs you should contact your
local law enforcement agency, or 911 if it is an emergency. The State
(law enforcement or I) determine which violation will be pursued. Generally,
a violation requires mandatory arrest.
Q: What does it mean if I am told that my problem is “civil in nature?”
A: Law enforcement agencies and the Office of the County Attorney have
specific statutory duties. Primarily this is the investigation and prosecution
of criminal matters. For instance, if your lawn mower is stolen, the police
can investigate that as a criminal matter. However, if the lawn mower
is repossessed, the matter is civil in nature and you will have to pursue
the return of the lawn mower through other legal avenues, such as retaining
a private attorney or initiating a small claims action. The law enforcement
agency or this office will not be able to assist you.