Iowa Drug Crime Defense Lawyers

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Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorneys Representing Clients Facing Misdemeanor and Felony Narcotics Offenses

Brian Kuester
Attorney Brian Kuester
Iowa Drug Crime Defense Lawyers Team Lead
Former US Attorney
Former District Attorney
Ellen Comley
Attorney Ellen Comley
Defense Team Lead
Senior Counsel
Roger Bach
Roger Bach
Team Consultant
Former Special Agent (OIG)

In Iowa, drug crimes have always been at the front and center of prosecutors’ minds. However, after reports indicated that the number of overdose deaths jumped 20 percent between 2020 and 2021,[1] prosecutors have taken an especially aggressive approach to the prosecution of all drug crimes. In fact, most Iowa drug crimes call for at least some period of incarceration. And, given the recent trend, it appears that Iowa prosecutors will continue to seek harsh penalties for anyone convicted.

If you face drug charges, the Iowa drug crime defense lawyers at The Criminal Defense Firm can help. The Criminal Defense Firm is nationally recognized for providing aggressive, client-centered representation to those facing serious criminal charges. We represent clients nationwide, including throughout Iowa, in all types of narcotics offenses, including misdemeanor possession all the up through serious drug trafficking offenses. Many of our senior lawyers are former state and federal prosecutors, giving us unique insight into how the government prosecutes these cases. With our knowledge, experience and skill, we can create compelling defenses in even the toughest cases.

Iowa Drug Laws

In addition to the federal government, each state is responsible for creating its own drug laws. For the most part (with the exception of marijuana, which varies widely across the states), state drug laws are similar in terms of the substances that they prohibit. For example, all the common street drugs, including the following, are illegal to possess in Iowa:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine base (crack cocaine and powder cocaine)
  • PCP
  • LSD
  • MDMA
  • GHB
  • Heroin
  • Fentanyl

Of course, this is a very abbreviated list, as there are literally hundreds of substances that are illegal to possess.

For possession of a controlled substance for personal use, Iowa law considers a first violation a serious misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,875. A second conviction is considered an aggravated misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine between $625 and $6,250. For those facing a third simple possession conviction, they face Class D Felony, which carries a maximum punishment of up to five years in jail and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

It is also illegal to “manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver” a controlled substance. In terms of punishment, Iowa uses a fairly unique approach. Under Iowa Code § 124.401, there are several categories of drug offenses, each of which carries its own penalty.

Subsection (a) Offenses

Iowa Code § 124.401(a) outlines the most serious drug offenses in the state. The statute provides a number of ways that someone can violate subsection (a). For example,

  • Possessing more than one kilogram of any mixture containing heroin;
  • Possessing more than 500 grams of any mixture containing cocaine (or 200 grams of pure cocaine);
  • Possessing more than 200 grams of PCP;
  • Possessing more than 10 grams of LSD; or
  • Possessing more than 5 kilograms of methamphetamine.

The punishment under subsection (a) carried a possible jail sentence of up to 50 years in jail and a maximum fine of $1 million.

Subsection (b) Offenses

Subsection (b) is the next most serious level of Iowa drug crime. It is a violation under subsection (b) to be in possession of more than the following amount of each drug:

  • 100 grams of any mixture containing heroin;
  • 100 grams of any mixture containing cocaine (or 40 grams of pure cocaine);
  • 10 grams of PCP;
  • Any amount of LSD;
  • 100 kilograms of marijuana; or
  • 5 grams of methamphetamine.

A violation of subsection (b) is a Class B Felony and carries a punishment of up to 25 years in jail and a fine of at least $5,000 and not more than $100,000.

Subsection (c) Offenses

Subsection (c) outlines the next level of drug crimes. Under subsection (c), it is a violation to possess the following:

  • Any amount of any mixture containing heroin;
  • Less than 100 grams of any mixture containing cocaine (or any amount of pure cocaine);
  • Any amount of PCP;
  • More than 50 kilograms of marijuana; or
  • Any amount of methamphetamine.

A conviction for a subsection (c) is a Class C Felony offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of up to ten years and a fine of between $1,000 and $50,000.

Subsection (d) Offenses

Subsection (d) is the catch-all provision, which applies to “any other controlled substances, counterfeit substances, simulated controlled substances, or imitation controlled substances classified in schedule IV or V.” Thus, if the amount or type of drug doesn’t fit in one of the other categories, subsection (d) will apply. A violation of subsection (d) is an aggravated misdemeanor. Aggravated misdemeanors are punishable by a period of incarceration of up to two years and a fine between $625 and $6,250. However, if you are convicted of possessing more than 50 kilograms of marijuana, in which case it is a Class D felony, which carries a maximum punishment of up to five years in jail and a fine between $750 and $7,500.

In addition to the above, Iowa law also provides for enhanced penalties in certain situations, including:

  • Possessing drugs in a public or private elementary or secondary school, public park, public swimming pool, public recreation center, or on a marked school bus;
  • Manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of minors;
  • Selling methamphetamine to minors;
  • Possessing a gun while also in possession of illegal drugs.

If you face any Iowa drug crime, it is imperative that you contact The Criminal Defense Firm, as soon as possible. Our Iowa criminal defense attorneys are standing by, ready to assist you with your case.

Defenses to Iowa Drug Crimes

Just because you were arrested for a drug crime doesn’t mean that you are guilty—and it certainly doesn’t mean that you will be found guilty. There are many defenses that can result in the withdrawal of charges or an acquittal. At The Criminal Defense Firm, our Iowa drug crime defense lawyers have extensive experience creating thoughtful, creative, and effective defenses. Some of the most common defenses to an Iowa drug crime include:

Suppressing the Drugs from Evidence

A motion to suppress is a pre-trial motion in which the defendant asks the court to prevent the prosecution from using certain evidence at trial. In the context of drug cases, most motions to suppress are based on police officers’ violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights leading up to the arrest.

Generally speaking, police officers deprive anyone of their freedom based on a hunch. Police officers need to have either probable cause or reasonable suspicion to conduct any type of investigation that deprives you of your freedom of movement. For example, if you get pulled over by police, they can’t just search your car without some evidence that you may be keeping something illegal in your car. Similarly, police officers cannot stop you as you’re walking down the street unless they reasonably believe you committed a crime or are about to do so.

If your Iowa drug crime defense lawyer is able to successfully litigate a motion to suppress, the judge will preclude the government from using any evidence officers obtained as a result of their improper search. The practical import of this is that the government is often left with no evidence to prosecute you, meaning prosecutors have no choice but to drop the case.

Arguing Against Constructive Possession

Under Iowa law, there are two ways to prove someone possessed narcotics. Prosecutors can either prove that you actually possessed the drugs or that you constructive possessed them. Actual possession is when the drugs are on your person. In these cases, the only way to challenge the possession element is to claim the officers were mistaken, lying, or planted the drugs. While this happens, it’s usually not the best defense.

However, when police officers find the drugs somewhere other than on your body, prosecutors must prove that you constructive possessed them. Constructive possession is a legal fiction that allows prosecutors to establish possession based on the totality of the circumstances. For example, prosecutors may argue that because you were the only one in the car, the drugs must have been yours. However, a skilled Iowa drug defense attorney will know how to effectively challenge a prosecutor’s claim that you constructively possessed narcotics. For example, perhaps there were other people in the car, or it wasn’t your car.

These are just a few of the most common defenses to Iowa drug crimes; there are many others. To learn more about which defenses may apply best in your case, contact The Criminal Defense Firm to set up a free case evaluation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I face harsher penalties if I am arrested with drugs and a gun?

Yes, under Iowa Code § 124.401(e), there is a specific provision calling for enhanced penalties for anyone who commits any drug crime. This enhancement requires judges to impose two times the sentence otherwise imposed due to the fact the defendant possessed a gun at the time. Notably, there is no requirement that the gun was used during the commission of the drug crime; only that you had “immediate possession or control” of the gun. Additionally, any sentence related to this subsection cannot be deferred or suspended, meaning you will have to serve out whatever sentence you receive in jail. Of course, these enhancements are in addition to any charges related to illegal gun possession. Given the strict double-punishment for drug crimes involving guns, anyone arrested for such an offense should immediately reach out to a dedicated Iowa drug crime defense attorney at The Criminal Defense Firm for assistance.

Q: If I wasn't caught selling, why do I face felony drug charges?

While simple possession of a controlled substance for personal use is a misdemeanor for a first and second conviction, a third offense is considered a Class D Felony. However, even if it is your first drug arrest, you may still face felony charges if the government believes you possessed the drugs with the intent to sell them. Thus, even if there is no evidence of a direct sale, prosecutors can still charge you with a felony drug crime. A conviction for possession with intent to deliver carries the same penalty as if you actually sold the drugs. Thus, these cases are extremely serious, and anyone facing possession with intent to deliver charges should immediately consult with an Iowa drug defense attorney at The Criminal Defense Firm

Reach Out to the Dedicated Iowa Drug Defense Attorneys at The Criminal Defense Firm Today

If you face drug charges, you need the best Iowa criminal defense attorney you can find. At The Criminal Defense Firm, our Iowa criminal defense lawyers proudly represent clients charged with all types of serious narcotics offenses. We provide each of our many clients with personalized representation, making sure that your arrest has as little impact on your life as possible. To learn more, and to schedule a free case evaluation with an Iowa drug defense lawyer, give The Criminal Defense Firm a call at 866-603-4540 today. You can also reach the firm through our online contact form.

Further Information About Defense of Federal Drug Charges

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