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 we see — it seems like Iowa’s population has rejected the Reefer Madness mentality of Anslinger and progeny. Nonetheless, our legislature is still mired in a mindset that supports alcohol, the white man’s drug, but criminalizes marijuana — a comparatively benign intoxicant and medication — which used to be associated with black jazz musicians and Mexican soldiers. Iowa and the feds both classify 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.
What I’m saying is that marijuana was criminalized for really awful, racist reasons. I’m also saying is that the government has no business masquerading as “the land of the free” while denying your freedom to legally smoke pot on the basis of baseless factual claims and “because I said so” logic.
And I’m also saying that, 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 an overview of misdemeanor stuff, click here, but here are the basics:
For a charge 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. A 35% surcharge means you’ll end up paying up to $1350 to the court. Additionally, Iowa Code 911.3 demands a “law enforcement initiative surcharge” of another $125 if you’re found guilty or accept a deferred judgment, bringing your total to up to $1475.
For a charge of possession of marijuana, second offense, Iowa Code 124.401(5) refers you on over to Iowa Code 903.1, which provides that you’ll be subjected to a fine of between $315 and $1875. That fine will be subjected to a 35% surcharge, per Iowa Code 911.1, because the government needs more of your money to be able to properly fund their arrests and prosecutions of more people. That surcharge will bring the actual total to the fine-monies the court demands to $425.25 – $2531.25. The law enforcement initiative surcharge ups this to $450.25 – $2656.25.
If you’re facing a charge of possession of marijuana, third offense, Iowa’s gonna go ahead and call that an aggravated misdemeanor and demand that you pay a fine of $625 – $6250 (plus surcharges) and spend up to two years in jail because, you know, you’re clearly a threat to society, you dangerous, dangerous pot smoker. You needed a marijuana possession lawyer two or more charges ago and you need one now.
(Every marijuana possession charge after the third one is punished the same way as a third offense.)
(These charges are assuming that you don’t get convicted of possession of a controlled substance other than marijuana. If you have prior possession convictions of not-marijuana or convictions for violating tax stamp laws, your charges are more serious than they otherwise might have been.)
If You’re Arrested for Marijuana Possession
Stop! Don’t talk! Don’t admit to anything. The police might tell you that it’ll be easier for you if you cooperate. The police can and will lie to you. They want you to admit to the crime and make their jobs easier. They do not want you to invoke your right to have a marijuana possession lawyer present.
If the police ask you if they can search you, your car, or your home, tell them that you don’t consent to any searches. If they get a warrant or force you to let them search anyway, fine, okay, but do not consent.
Tell the police that you want to leave and ask if you’re free to go. If they tell you you can go, go. If they tell you that you can’t go, clarify. Ask them — does that mean that I’m under arrest?
If you are arrested, tell them (1) “I want to remain silent” and (2) “I don’t want to answer any questions without my attorney present.” After that, don’t talk!
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 you’re charged just with possession, your pot possession case will follow the same format as most criminal charges in Iowa do. You can click here for an overview of that.
You can expect that the court will ask you to do a substance abuse evaluation.
How Your Marijuana Possession Lawyer Can Help
The first thing we’ll do is sit down together and review your charges.
Step 1: Dismissal
Our first priority is seeing how and whether we can make your charges go away entirely. 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 that’s something that’s a problem for you, it’s definitely something you should tell your marijuana possession attorney about while you’re weighing your options.
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.
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 impse 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 completely 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.
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.
At trial, you have a constitutional right to a presumption of innocence. The state will put forth the evidence it has about you and we will do what we can to present the jury a story that 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.)
If you are found Guilty, then the judge will sentence you.
If you are found Not Guilty, you go home.
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.
A defendant accused of simple possession of illegal drugs will often also be accused of possession of drug paraphernalia.
It seems like many people are willing to plead to paraphernalia with no actual showing of guilt by the government.
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 materials used or attempted to be used with a controlled substance. It is significant that the statute does not prohibit possession of equipment or paraphernalia that were intended for use 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 had it intending to use it – which isn’t illegal under the statute, remember? – but believing that it never had been used?
Penalties for paraphernalia aren’t exactly step, particularly when compared to penalties for drug possession charges. It’s a simple misdemeanor. Up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $65-$315, plus surcharges. If you’re facing something like drug charges with intent to distribute, paraphernalia charges may seem negligible. Compared with felony drug possession or even with marijuana charges, paraphernalia is a tiny offense.
If all you’re charged with is possession, though, there may be ways to get to reasonable doubt. If you’ve been arrested or served with a summons to appear by the county sheriff’s office, we can help. An Iowa marijuana possession lawyer can explain the contours of Iowa’s marijuana laws to you.
Feel free to give us a call about your marijuana possession charges in Polk County, IA, and surrounding areas. This embraces Ankeny, Des Moines, West Des Moines, Ames, Johnston, Waukee, Indianola, etc., in and around Polk County, Iowa. (We can’t help you with your charges in Polk County, Florida.)
If you’ve been charged with a crime in Iowa and you’d like guidance about what steps to take next and whether you need a marijuana possession lawyer, call (515) 491 6128, click “chat now” on any page on this website, or go to the “Contact Us” page to send us an email.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.
What will happen if I’m accused of possessing a controlled substance?
When someone alleges that you have committed a crime, law enforcement will start an investigation.
The county sheriff’s department will take you into custody if they are aware that you have active warrants. The sheriff’s department does not have the latitude to decide whether or not to release you. Arrest records are available online in most Iowa jurisdictions, which will help your friends and family find out where you are if you are suddenly arrested.
Depending on whether they believe there is probable cause to charge you with Iowa crimes, you could be taken to jail or given documents that say when your court date is. After your arrest, you will be read your rights and given an opportunity to call a lawyer or a law firm.
You will be taken in front of the judge for an initial appearance. The judge will schedule a preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing, you or your lawyer will have the opportunity to ask a witness questions to establish whether probable cause exists to charge you with the offense. At this hearing, the witness will be under oath. There are reasons that your attorney might suggest waiving the preliminary hearing. You should consult with them before making a decision.
You may be confined in a correctional facility before trial if you are unable to make bail or if the court doesn’t set bail. There are various factors the court may consider when deciding whether to set bail, such as the nature of your offense and any public safety concerns.
Depending on the nature of the allegations, there may be a protective order in place. If someone has a protective order against you and tries to contact you, you should contact the sheriff’s office right away. A law enforcement officer will take a police report. Police officers can’t provide legal advice, but they can take you – or the protected party, if they persist in violating a no contact order – to the county jail.
Your defense attorney will let you know when you will next have to appear in front of the court. This may be for an arraignment or you may be able to submit a written arraignment.
The county attorney’s office will review the information provided to them by the police. They will determine what offenses to charge you with. You could be charged with a misdemeanor or with a felony.
Your attorney will let you know what the government is claiming you did, what your rights are, what the worst case scenario sentence could be, and how this could affect your criminal record. Your criminal lawyer will tell you more about the fines, terms of incarceration, and collateral consequences that might apply. Your law firm will give you legal advice on the pros and cons of taking your case to trial. The decision of whether or not to go to trial is ultimately yours.
If you choose to go to trial, your case will be tried in district court. The officer or officers who arrested you and investigated your case will be likely State witnesses.
If you are convicted or enter a guilty plea, you will be sentenced. After conviction, you could be directed to pay a fine, complete probation, or to detention in jail or prison.
If you are fined, the clerk’s office may be able to help you set up a payment plan.
After conviction, you might have reason and opportunity to appeal your conviction or sentence to the court of appeals or even to the Iowa Supreme Court. The Supreme Court might even say that there was a constitutional problem with the statute you were charged under. Ask your criminal defense attorney for more information.
What should I know about a marijuana possession lawyer?
Attorneys are people who completed their bachelor’s or 4-year degrees and then went on to attend a law school, such as Drake University Law School in Des Moines. After completing law school, Iowa lawyers take the bar exam and are evaluated for character and fitness. Iowa lawyers are admitted to the Iowa state bar. The bar association regulates the legal profession.
Some lawyers and law firms do general practice, which means they accept all kind of representation. Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of law. A lawyer might do only civil practice or only criminal defense. Some lawyers get even more particular than that, practicing only (or primarily) in a narrow area, such as domestic violence, sex crime, sexual abuse, operating while intoxicated, child endangerment, child abuse, indecent exposure, theft, family law, child custody, personal injury, possession of controlled substances, sex crimes, marijuana, DUI defense, arson, criminal mischief, vehicular homicide, drug offenses, traffic violations, violent crime or drunk driving.
Many Iowa lawyers practice only in Iowa courts. All Iowa crimes are defined in the Iowa Code. 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 that so that they can give you referrals to other attorneys, if necessary. Federal courts in Iowa are not the same things as state law courts in Iowa. 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 divided into misdemeanors and 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 arson laws, you should talk to a lawyer.
What can an Iowa lawyer do for me?
If you’ve been accused of a crime, you need to be in contact with an Iowa lawyer or a law firm that works with Iowa criminal law.
If there’s a warrant out for your arrest, your Iowa criminal defense attorney can help coordinate with law enforcement to coordinate a self-surrender that doesn’t result in potential embarrassment at work or while you’re home with your family.
Your Iowa attorney will stay in touch with the county attorney’s office and let the prosecutor know whether you choose to exercise or waive your right to speedy trial. Further, counsel can provide some guidance on whether it’s advisable in your position 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, how this will impact your criminal history, and how likely it is that you could get your charges dismissed.