If you’ve been charged with pot possession in or around Polk County, Iowa, we can help out as your Iowa marijuana possession lawyers.
Marijuana possession is one of the most common charges in Iowa. Our legislature is still mired in a mindset that criminalizes marijuana. Iowa classifies marijuana as a “Schedule 1 intoxicant,” meaning that they claim it has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use,” stubbornly overlooking the plentiful data that contradict both of these claims.
At least for now, there’s nothing stopping the state from charging you with criminal possession of marijuana. If you’re accused of having a marijuana, call a defense lawyer and to talk about your next steps.
First Offense Marijuana Possession is a Serious Misdemeanor
What does this mean?
For a conviction of possession of marijuana, first offense, Iowa Code 124.401(5) provides that the punishment of a fine of up to $1000 and/or up to 6 months of jail time. They will apply a 15% surcharge.
For a conviction of possession of marijuana, second offense, Iowa Code 124.401(5) refers you on over to Iowa Code 903.1, which was changed on July 15, 2020. Where prior to 7/15, you’d have paid a fine of $315-$1875 (plus a 35% surcharge,) on new offenses, they will now fine you $430 – $2560 (plus a 15% surcharge.) You could spend up to a year in jail.
If you’re convicted of possession of marijuana, third offense, it is an aggravated misdemeanor. The Court may sentence you to up to two years in jail. They will fine you $855-$8540. They will apply a 15% surcharge.
Subsequent offenses are also aggravated misdemeanors.
Tax stamp enhancements
HOWEVER, if you have convictions for possession of other controlled substances or convictions of tax stamp law violations, things are different. I have composed a handy chart, which was current until July 15, 2020, and which now needs updated:
If You’re Arrested for Marijuana Possession
Stop! Don’t talk! Don’t admit to anything. The police will encourage you to cooperate. The police can and will lie to you. They want you to admit to the crime. Admitting to a crime makes officers’ (and prosecutors’) jobs easier. The police do not want you to invoke your right to a marijuana possession lawyer.
If the police ask for permission to search you, your car, or your home, DO NOT GIVE CONSENT. If officers search anyway, do not interfere. State plainly and clearly that you do not consent to any searches. Afterward, wait quietly. Try to make mental records about what happens so that you can tell your lawyer later.
Know what to ask
Develop good police habits. Even if you’re innocent, when the police approach you, tell them that you want to leave. Ask the officer if you are free to go. If the officer tells you that you are free to go, go. If the officer tells you that you cannot leave, ask for clarification. Ask them — “does this mean that I’m under arrest?”
If you are arrested, tell them (1) “I want to remain silent” and (2) “an attorney told me not to speak to police without an attorney present.” After that, don’t talk! Don’t answer questions. Don’t initiate conversation. If you talk, you could accidentally give up your right to remain silent.
Call a marijuana possession lawyer soon as you can to discuss your arrest and what your next steps are.
What to Expect if You’ve Been Charged with Possession of Marijuana in Iowa
If they accuse you just of pot possession, your case will likely follow a predictable path. You can click here for an overview.
How Your Marijuana Possession Lawyer Can Help
The first thing that will happen is a conversation.
If you approach me for legal help, I will first ask you what the State accused you of. I will ask you what evidence they have. Please do not volunteer additional information unless you are certain it is helpful to your case. If you are not sure, ask your lawyer — “would it be helpful for me to talk to you about ____?” I may speculate about directions your case might take.
Next, I will ascertain whether you can hire me. After evaluating any possible representation conflicts, we will discuss fees. Then, I will send you a contract. If I agree to represent you and if you sign a contract and pay the legal fee, then I will be your lawyer. Prior to that, I am not your lawyer and am only evaluating the possibility of representation.
Step 1: Explore Dismissal Possibilities
Once you hire me, making your charges go away is my first priority in your case. We’ll review the evidence and your statements to determine whether there’s a possibility or probability that you were improperly searched or otherwise had your rights violated. If there’s a way to get evidence suppressed in your case, it’s possible that the State won’t have enough left to get you convicted and may drop the charges.
Step 2: Plea Bargain Options
If there isn’t a viable way to get your charges dismissed, we’ll go over the state’s plea bargain options with you. The State isn’t obligated to offer you a plea bargain, but they usually will. Very few cases go to trial. Trials are time-consuming and expensive — for the State and for you — and many people prefer to try to resolve things without the stress of a trial.
If you’re eligible for a deferred judgment, this might be an option for your marijuana possession charge.
A deferred judgment won’t show up on basic criminal background checks but it will show up in the NCIS database. If an employer requests a waiver when you apply for a job, they will be able to find out about this.
If a prosecutor offers to recommend a sentence that a judge would likely be receptive to even if you were convicted at trial, that isn’t a great incentive to give up your chance to be acquitted and found Not Guilty.
Step 3: Trial
You have a right to a trial. You are the only one who can decide whether or not to go to trial. We can give you guidance on whether or not trial seems like a good option for your case, but no attorney can guarantee any particular outcome, and the final decision about whether or not to go to trial is yours.
Until proven guilty, you have a right to be presumed innocent. The government will present evidence of your guilt. We will present the jury a story that hopefully embraces all of the evidence and still leaves room for reasonable doubt about whether or not you committed the charged offense.
At the conclusion of the trial, you will be found “Guilty” or “Not Guilty” (trials don’t determine whether or not you’re innocent, just whether or not the state can prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.)
Sentencing and the trial penalty
A lot of people seem concerned that if they don’t accept a plea bargain, the sentence that they’ll face if convicted at trial will be worse. This isn’t necessarily true. In sentencing, the judge can accept the State’s and defendant’s plea agreement, if one exists, but they can freely disregard the agreement and imopse whatever sentence (within legal limits) they see fit.
If you go to trial and are convicted, we still have an opportunity to argue sentencing. It’s possible that even if you go to trial and are convicted, the sentence you ultimately receive will be better than the plea bargain the prosecutor offered. Because of this, if trial is financially accessible to you and if a viable route to reasonable doubt exists, I’m likely to encourage trial.
Iowa’s Medical Cannabidiol Act – Chapter 124E
Permanent Iowa residents who are at least 18 years old can now apply for medical marijuana in Iowa. Health care practitioners sign written certifications that patients are suffering from a debilitating medical condition. The patients submit those certifications to the department of health and pay a fee of $100. (The fee is only $25 for people who are on social security disability, supplemental security insurance, or medical assistance.)
What is Cannabidiol?
For purposes of Iowa law, medical cannabidiol is any pharmaceudical grade cannabinoid — usually THC or CBD — found in either indica or sativa cannabis plants. Additionally, medical cannabidiol includes preparations of the cannabis plant with no more than 3% THC.
If you’re driving through Iowa with your valid medical marijuana card from your home state, it is entirely possible that you will find yourself arrested and your medication seized.
Under Iowa law, though, that shouldn’t happen. Iowa Code 124E.18 has a reciprocity provision. Out-of-state patients with marijuana registration cards will have their marijuana cards recognized. Out of state marijuana cards don’t allow you to buy medical marijuana from Iowa cannabidiol dispensaries, though.
Any state or federal felony that involved possessing, using, or distributing a controlled substance will disqualify you from getting an Iowa medical marijuana card.
Possession of a Controlled Substance Enhancements
Habitual offender enhancement for marijuana
Iowa Code 902.8 can enhance felony possession charges.
Some people call a habitual offender enhancement the “third strike” rule. Do you already have two or more felony convictions? Convictions from anywhere in the United States count. If so, your next class C felony or class D felony conviction in Iowa makes you a “habitual offender.”
Habitual offender convictions prevent you from getting parole for at least three years.
Iowa charges related to possession of marijuana
There are marijuana-adjacent offenses they might also charge you with. Your Iowa possession of marijuana lawyer can explain these.
In order to convict you of possession of drug paraphernalia under Iowa code 124.414, the government will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed materials that were used or attempted to be used with a controlled substance.
If there’s no residue in that bong, how will they prove that it was used with pot? If there is residue in that bong, have they proven that that residue is marijuana residue? Will the lab analyst actually show up for a paraphernalia trial?
Even if they prove that the pipe has been used with a controlled substance, can they prove that you knowingly or intentionally possessed paraphernalia? What if you had the pipe as an art piece? What if you intended to use it but had not yet had the chance to do so?
Possession of drug paraphernalia is a simple misdemeanor. Therefore, you could face up to 30 days in jail. Under current Iowa law, fines for a simple misdemeanor are $105-$855 plus a 15% surcharge.
Defenses to Possession
The government’s lawyer has to prove you guilty beyond all reasonable doubt of all elements of a crime.
In light of that, some possible marijuana possession defenses include:
If it’s reasonable to think that someone else did the crime, then you shouldn’t be held responsible.
Lack of knowledge
If your buddy left his drugs in your backpack and you didn’t know about it, you aren’t the criminal. That’s because the law punishes knowing possession of controlled substances.
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure
The Fourth Amendment, with some specific and well-delineated exceptions, guards you from warrantless searches and seizures.
When the government accuses you of possessing illegal drugs, we might be able to get to reasonable doubt. If you’ve been arrested or served with a summons to appear by the county sheriff’s office, ask if we can help.
This blog post is for informational purposes only. Don’t rely on it as legal advice. It may be out of date. It may not apply to your situation. Reading this site doesn’t make me your lawyer.
Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction. If you want to talk to us about your Iowa domestic assault case, please contact us at (515) 491 6128. We’ll set up a time to talk.
What will happen if I’m charged with possession of a controlled substance?
When someone alleges that you committed intimidation, law enforcement will investigate. Then, if a judge finds probable cause, you could go to jail. Once in jail, you might be let out on bond. Pretrial release might let you out. You might not be let out at all.
Instead of sending you to jail, the judge might give you papers. Those papers will tell you when your court date is. After your arrest. police will read you your rights. Then, they will give you time to call an intimidation attorney or a law firm.
At an initial appearance, you will see a judge. The judge might schedule a preliminary hearing. At a preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will ask questions. One or more witnesses will be under oath. After the questions, the judge will decide whether probable cause exists.
Your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. Before deciding, consult your lawyer. Alternatively, the prosecutor might file the “trial information” before the preliminary hearing. If so, there won’t be a preliminary hearing.
Your attorney tell you about your next court date. After your preliminary hearing happens (or after you receive the trial information,) you will have an arraignment.
Police will give reports to the county attorney’s office. Then, the county attorney’s office will review the information. After the prosecutor reads the reports, they will decide what offenses to charge you with. For instance, a prosecutor might charge you with a misdemeanor. Alternatively, they could accuse you of a felony.
Your possession of marijuana lawyer will tell you what the government accused you of. Moreover, they will explain your rights. You also need to know how this could affect your criminal record. In short, they will tell you about the worst case scenario. A criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply.
Benefits of a lawyer
Your law firm will give you legal advice. Specifically, they will explain the pros and cons of taking your case to trial. After all, only you can decide whether or not to accept a plea offer.
Finally, if a jury convicts you, you can probably appeal. The court of appeals hears appellate arguments. So does the Iowa Supreme Court. Because they review legal issues, they might find a constitutional problem. That means that the law can be illegal. Alternatively, the district court might have treated a legal law illegally. However, the right to appeal does not apply to simple misdemeanors. Ask your criminal defense attorney for more information.
What should I know about lawyers generally?
Attorneys completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees. Thereafter, they went to law school. One example is Drake University Law School. That school is in Des Moines. Afterward, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam. Thereafter, a committee evaluates their character and fitness. The Iowa State Bar admits Iowa lawyers. The Iowa bar association regulates the legal profession.
Some lawyers and law firms do general practice. In light of that, they accept all kind of representation. In contrast, some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. For example, a lawyer might do only civil practice. When a lawyer does civil work, they might handle divorces. Additionally, the Iowa lawyer might represent small claims cases. Further, a civil practice lawyer could do personal injury work. In another case, the lawyer might focus on family law or child custody.
Alternatively, some lawyers practice only criminal defense. Some lawyers get even more particular. For instance, a lawyer might take only domestic violence defense. Another lawyer might focus on sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, marijuana, DUI defense, controlled substance offenses, arson, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, drug offenses, traffic violations, violent crime or drunk driving.
Iowa vs. federal courts
Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. The Iowa Code defines all Iowa crimes. The Iowa rules of criminal procedure control what happens in Iowa criminal justice cases.
Federal court is different. If you are facing federal charges for a federal criminal offense, make sure to let your Iowa lawyer know. Because Iowa federal courts are not state law courts in Iowa, your lawyer might refer you elsewhere. Federal prosecutors and federal judges use different procedural rules. Federal crimes are subject to federal sentencing.
What offenses exist in Iowa criminal law?
Criminal law offenses are misdemeanors or felonies. Class A felonies exist, but most people facing felony charges are facing a class B felony, a class C felony, or a class D felony. If you have questions about Iowa intimidation offenses, ask a lawyer.
What can an Iowa intimidation with a dangerous weapon lawyer do for me?
When accused, contact an attorney or law firm. Make sure to call one that works with Iowa criminal law.
If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your Iowa unlawful assembly attorney can help. In that case, you will coordinate with law enforcement. Self-surrender won’t be as embarrassing as public arrest would be.
Your Iowa criminal lawyer will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office. That means they will let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial. Further, counsel can provide some guidance. For example, you need to know whether it’s a good idea to consider a plea agreement or to go to trial. They will talk to you about whether a judge or jury is likely to find a particular witness credible.
Your criminal lawyer will let you know what sort of jail time you might be facing if convicted. Moreover, they can explain how conviction impacts criminal history. Finally, they can discuss whether or not the prosecutor might dismiss your charges.
Finally, there is a Victim Services Support Program available through the Iowa attorney general’s office.