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Drug Charges

The War on Drugs is a war on our own citizens, a crusade against our friends and family and neighbors. It's a war that has destroyed the lives of many, through the punitive approach it takes and through the violence and criminal organizations it encourages.

It's also a war that has failed. Yet both the federal government and the state of Iowa persist. Those charged with drug crimes have been declared the enemy. But they still have rights, and skilled and aggressive attorneys can push back against the prosecution.

Lawyer for Drug Crimes in Des Moines, Iowa

Whether you face federal charges or state charges, you can have four decades of combined experience fighting for you when you hire a Des Moines drug defense lawyer from McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. Our criminal defense attorneys will challenge the prosecution.

They will seek to have inadmissible evidence suppressed and thrown out, so that your charges might be reduced or dismissed. Call today at (515) 279-9700 to set up a free consultation.

We represent clients facing drug charges throughout Polk County and Dallas County, including in Des Moines, West Des Moines and Ankeny. We also fight for the rights of those facing state and federal drug charges all over Iowa.


Iowa Drug Charge Resources


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Federal vs. Iowa Drug Charges

Most criminal accusations, including most drug charges, are tried by the state of Iowa. However, all of the things banned by state law - the possession, sale and manufacture of substances made illegal by law - are also prohibited by federal law. In 1970, U.S. Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act, and it remains both in effect and as the core law justifying the futile War on Drugs.

Iowa and the federal government have similar laws regarding controlled substances. The substances made illegal are the same, and make the mere possession of these substances a crime. Both also ban the distribution and manufacture of any of these substances, with harsh penalties.

The federal government, however, is more likely to prosecute charges like trafficking. Federal trafficking charges have mandatory minimum sentences. Having a certain amount of certain controlled substances can lead to at least several decades in federal prison. The federal government can still prosecute simple possession charges, which may occur as a result of finding drugs in your possession at a federally-regulated facility, like a prison or an airport.

The Drug Enforcement Agency is mainly responsible for prosecution of drug laws, but any federal agency can enforce federal drug laws. If charged with federal charges, you will go through federal court and face time in federal prison.

Additionally, the lawyer representing you must be licensed in federal court. At McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C., our Des Moines criminal defense lawyers are both licensed and experienced in Iowa federal courts.


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Iowa Drug Charges for Mere Possession

The Iowa Controlled Substances Act is very similar to the federal Controlled Substances act. Both make illegal the mere possession of any narcotic, including cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine (meth), LSD (acid), PCP and even marijuana. Synthetic drugs, or drugs made to mimic the effects of any of these substances, is also illegal.

The law also bans the possession of prescription drugs if the suspect does not have a valid prescription written to them. It is also illegal to obtain or seek to obtain a prescription drug through any kind of fraudulent means, such as a stolen or falsified prescription.

Penalties for drug possession escalate after every offense. The first charge results in a jail sentence up to a year, and a fine up to $1,875. The second means a sentence of up to two years in jail, and a fine up to $6,250. The third, and any subsequent offense, is a felony, with a prison sentence up to five years and a fine up to $7,500.

The punishments for marijuana possession are different. Additionally, the possession of any drug paraphernalia, or any equipment used to ingest or distribute drugs, including crack pipes and scales, can be punished by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of at least $50.


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Drug Distribution Charges in Polk County

The government particularly targets drug dealers and drug manufacturers. Under Iowa law, you will face particularly harsh penalties if you are charged with possession with intent to distribute, which includes selling or transporting, or manufacture a controlled substances.

Prosecutors can use a variety of factors to show intent to distribute or manufacture, rather than just simple possession. These include the way the amount, the way the drugs were packaged, if there were any scales, baggies or other equipment used to distribute drugs around, if there was a large amount of cash around, or the suspect’s alleged behavior at the time of arrest.

Punishments for possession with intent to distribute or manufacture vary on the type of drug and the amount possessed. Carrying more than a kilogram of heroin, 500 grams of cocaine, 50 grams of crack, 10 grams of LSD or five kilos of meth can put you behind bars for up to 50 years and involve a fine up to $1 million.

If you are charged with a class “A” felony or with manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, or distribution of methamphetamine then you are not eligible to be released under pretrial release guidelines or under the bond schedule promulgated by the Judicial Council.


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Defenses to Des Moines Drug Crimes

Prosecutors must prove every element of every crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that the prosecutors must make the jury believe that, save some completely improbable scenario, everything they are saying is absolutely correct. That’s every element: That you possessed the drug, either on your person or in your control, and, in possession with intent to distribute or manufacture, that you possessed the amount you are charged with and you had the necessary intent.

Your Des Moines criminal defense lawyer doesn’t have to prove anything. His job is, first, to suppress evidence that was illegally obtained. The main evidence in drug cases is usually the drug itself, which was usually found as the result of a search. If police cannot show they had reasonable suspicion or probable cause, your lawyer may have the evidence thrown out. Without crucial evidence, your charges may be dismissed or dropped.

At trial, your attorney can show the holes and weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, showing where the reasonable doubt exists. They can explain to the jury why they must acquit if there is any reasonable doubt.


New Laws in 2016 for Drug Crimes

For certain drug offenses that commenced after July 1, 2016, the Iowa legislature enacted new rules for a person serving a sentence for a conviction under Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(b) or (c) (felony “B” and “C,” medium or smaller quantity, drug manufacturing, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver). That person shall not be eligible for parole or work release until the person has served between one-sixth of the maximum indeterminate sentence prescribed by law and the maximum indeterminate sentence prescribed by law.

In determining when the person first becomes eligible for parole or work release within such parameters, the sentencing court shall base its determination upon all pertinent information including the person’s criminal record, a validated risk assessment, and the negative impact the offense has had on the victim or other persons. Prior law required such a person to serve at least one-third of the maximum indeterminate sentence prior to becoming eligible for parole or work release.

For certain drug offenses that commence prior to July 1, 2016, the Iowa legislature enacted new rules for a person who meets the following criteria:

That person shall first be eligible for parole or work release after the person has served a mandatory minimum sentence of one-sixth of the maximum indeterminate sentence prescribed by law.

The prior law in Iowa required such a person to serve at least one-third of the maximum indeterminate sentence prior to becoming eligible for parole or work release.

When the Board of Parole considers a person for parole or work release whose sentence commenced prior to July 1, 2016, for a conviction under Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(b) or (c) (felony “B” and “C,” medium or smaller quantity, drug manufacturing, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver), the board shall consider all pertinent information including the person’s criminal record, a validated risk assessment, and the negative impact the offense has had on the victim or other persons.


Penalties for Cocaine Crimes in Iowa

Iowa’s current laws include wide disparities in the penalties for crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine. The current penalties for cocaine crimes including a mandatory minimum sentence for a Class C felony of cocaine possession and the limitations to release on parole, work release, and earned time.

For more than 500 grams of powder cocaine or 50 grams of crack cocaine, the crime is charged as a super Class B felony is punishable by confinement of no more than 50 years and a fine of no more than $1.0 million.

For 100 grams or less of power cocaine or 10 grams or less of crack cocaine, the crime is charged as a regular Class B felony is punishable by confinement of no more than 25 years and a fine of no less than $5,000 but no more than $100,000.

For 100 grams to 500 grams of powder cocaine or 10 grams to 50 grams of crack, the crime is charged as a Class C felony is punishable by a fine of not less than $1,000 but no more than $50,000.

Under Iowa law, a person who is currently serving a Class C felony sentence under Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(c) (small quantity drug manufacturing, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver) is required to serve a minimum sentence as provided in Iowa Code section 124.413.


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Iowa Drug Defense Resources

Drug Policy Alliance: This national organization is dedicated to lobbying for sensible policies surrounding drugs.

RAND Drug Policy Research Center: The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit organization that conducts research, including into drug criminalization policy.


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Attorney for Drug Offense in Polk County, Iowa

The attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. represent clients charged with violations of State and local laws relating to the unlawful possession, sale, use, growing, manufacturing, and the making of narcotic drugs. The most common substances involved in these prosecutions include marijuana, opium or cocaine and their derivatives (morphine, heroin, codeine); synthetic narcotics (Demerol, methadone); and dangerous non-narcotic drugs (barbiturates, Benzedrine).

If you’ve been charged with possessing, selling, manufacturing drugs, or any other crime pertaining to controlled substances, you can count on a vigorous and zealous defense from the criminal defense attorneys at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C..

A Des Moines drug defense lawyer from our firm will fight for your rights and seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us today at (515) 279-9700 for a free consultation.


This article was last updated on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Tell Us About Your Case

How would you like to be contacted?

This web site is designed for general information only. The information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.

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" Aaron, words cannot begin to tell you how appreciative I am of you/your firm, for all you did in my legal matter these past few months. Today was a great day. I think you for your professionalism/tenacity in getting my case suppressed/dismissed! Thank You Very Much. "

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