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Under Iowa law it is illegal to intentionally or knowingly possess marijuana. Fines and penalties vary across the board based on the type of drug possessed and whether or not a person intended to distribute the drugs. In regard to the possession of marijuana charge-first offense, it would be smart to speak with a criminal defense attorney to see if you are eligible for the diversion program. If you complete the program, your charge can be dismissed.
If you have been charged with marijuana possession, manufacture, or distribution, consult with our team at Feld Law Firm. We have extensive experience representing Polk County’s criminally accused.
Marijuana Laws in Iowa
Marijuana is illegal in Iowa. Possession of marijuana for personal use is a misdemeanor charge, while possession with the intent to distribute carries much greater penalties.
- Possession with the intent to distribute marijuana is a felony charge that can come with substantial jail time. The charges increase significantly if the drug is sold to a minor.
- Cultivating and growing marijuana in the state of Iowa is also illegal and subject to felony charges.
- Possession of marijuana paraphernalia, such as bongs or pipes is prohibited.
Types of Possession in Iowa
In Iowa, there is actual possession and constructive possession.
To be convicted of actual possession, the person must actually possess the marijuana. For example, if the marijuana is in a person's shirt pocket or in their shoe, this is actual possession.
To be convicted under constructive possession, you must:
- Know what it is
- Know where it is
- Exercise dominion and control over it
In other words, you must know what marijuana is, where it is located, and be able to access the marijuana. For example, if you and a friend are in a car together where there is marijuana in the center console and you both know about it and can both exercise control over it, you are both guilty of possessing marijuana. It should be noted that when there are multiple people in a location and there is marijuana in the vicinity of the people, it is much harder for the state to prove a certain person guilty of possession of marijuana.
If the state cannot prove any of the three elements beyond a reasonable doubt, you are not guilty of possession of a controlled substance.
Marijuana Possession Penalties
Listed below are the penalties for possession of marijuana based on what number of offense it is for a person.
First Offense Possession of Marijuana
On your first-offense possession charge, you could be imposed fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail. There is a mandatory 48-hour period minimum in jail. There are ways around the 48-hour minimum jail time if this is your first offense, but it usually requires being placed on probation.
Additionally, if you are a student at a college or university, a conviction can disqualify or limit the student loans you can receive. A person will also be required to complete a substance abuse evaluation if charged with possession of marijuana first offense. In some Iowa counties, failure to comply with this condition before arraignment can result in going to jail to complete the substance abuse evaluation and all costs will be assessed to the defendant, including the day in jail. Simply put, make sure you complete a substance abuse evaluation before your arraignment date. In addition to the above penalties, there is a $125 Law Enforcement Initiative Fee and a $10 D.A.R.E. surcharge fee. It should be noted that prior to July 1, 2018, a person convicted of any drug offense was required to have their driver's license suspended for 180 days. This is no longer the case for any drug offense unrelated to driving.
Second-Offense Possession of Marijuana
A second-offense possession of marijuana is a serious misdemeanor if the prior offense for possession was for marijuana. It has increased fines compared to the first-offense possession. Additionally, a second offense can be used as an enhancement should a person ever be charged with another possession of marijuana or other controlled substance.
If convicted of second-offense possession of marijuana, one could be incarcerated for up to one year in prison and be fined up to $2,560. If the prior possession offense was for something other than marijuana, the second-offense possession charge increases to an aggravated misdemeanor.
Third-Offense Possession of Marijuana
A third-offense possession of marijuana is an aggravated misdemeanor if the prior two offenses were for possession of marijuana. If convicted, a person faces up to a $8,540 plus a 15% surcharge and court costs. The court costs are $100.00 for aggravated misdemeanors. A person also faces up to two years in prison in addition to a license suspension. If either of the prior possessions were for anything other than marijuana, this third offense becomes a class D felony which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,245 fine.
Recent Updates to the Law
It should be noted as of July 1, 2018, it appears that law will go into effect preventing a person from having their driver's license revoked for possession of marijuana. However, the marijuana conviction can still affect your ability to get a job. It can also ruin relationships and drain your financial resources.
Feld Law Firm can advise you on how to proceed so that you can keep your student loans as the marijuana conviction can heavily affect them. We can also advise you on strategy and whether your constitutional rights have been violated. If there is a constitutional violation, you can have your case thrown out on a legal technicality.
Possession with Intent to Distribute
For a person to be found guilty of possession with intent to distribute, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person possessed the marijuana and intended to distribute it.
To prove a person intended to sell the marijuana, the state will look to facts such as:
- Whether there was a scale near the drugs
- Whether the drugs were in individual baggies
- The amount of marijuana
- Whether the marijuana was organized by kind
- The location of the marijuana
Of course, there are other factors that the state takes into consideration. Along with the possession with intent to distribute charge, there is the usual charge of failure to affix a tax stamp. The failure to affix a tax stamp is also a D felony. In regard to the failure affix a tax stamp for marijuana, the state must prove that the person had at least 42 grams of marijuana and did not affix a drug stamp.
Below are the penalties for possession with intent to distribute marijuana crimes:
- Distribution/sale of less than 50 kilograms: This is a special class D felony which includes a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $7,500 and/or a sentence of not more than five years.
- Distribution/sale of more than 50 kilograms but less than 100 kilograms: This is a special class C felony which includes a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $50,000 and a sentence of not more than 10 years.
- Distribution/sale of more than 100 kilograms but less than 1000 kilograms: This is a special class B felony which includes a fine of not less than $5,000 nor greater than $100,000 and a sentence of not more than 25 years.
- Distribution/sale of more than 1000 kilograms: This is a special class B felony which includes a fine not greater than $1,000,000 and a sentence of not more than 50 years.
Fines and penalties can be enhanced if you are in immediate possession of a firearm at the time of arrest for possession of marijuana (or any controlled substance for that matter). Additionally, they can be enhanced if a person is selling or distributing within 1,000 feet of a school zone.
Driving with Marijuana in the Vehicle
It should also be noted that it happens frequently where someone is driving with marijuana in their vehicle. In Iowa, it is illegal to have any amount of a controlled substance within your system while operating a motor vehicle. If a person is operating a motor vehicle while having any controlled substance in their system, they can be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI). It is at the officer's discretion to charge the person with an OWI, but someone who tells the officer that they smoked or used earlier in the day is generally charged with an OWI. That is why it is always better to keep your mouth shut when speaking with law enforcement.
Discuss Your Case with Feld Law Firm
If you have been charged with possession of marijuana or possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, you should seek a Des Moines marijuana defense lawyer to represent your best interests.
Your ability to keep and obtain loans for school, keep your job, and keep your way of life is at risk with a drug conviction on your record. We often receive calls after a person has pleaded guilty on their own, asking us if we can get the drug conviction off their record because they cannot get a job. In almost all circumstances, the charge is stuck on your record.
With that said, it is a good idea to do it right the first time. Feld Law Firm is here to help.
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Polk County Simple Misdemeanors Starting as low as $1000