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Penalties for drug crimes may be enhanced based on location

Residents in Iowa know that it's a crime to possess illegal drugs, but they may not be aware that simply by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the crime of drug possession becomes that much worse in the eyes of the law.

Under the Iowa controlled substances statutes, people who sell or otherwise distribute illegal drugs may have their criminal penalties enhanced significantly, including but not limited to up to 5 additional years in prison upon conviction.

This dramatic penalty enhancement may apply to any person who possesses a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it in, on, or even near the grounds of a public or private school, school bus, or even a public park or recreation center. Those who simply possess drugs in such areas are also subject to additional penalties, including 100 hours of community service.

The intent of such lengthy prison sentences and sanctions is to discourage people from dealing drugs in public areas where children and families are often present, but the enhancement also applies to people within 1000 feet of these areas, which can be confusing and may lead to extremely illogical consequences.

For example, a person gives a gram of marijuana to a friend at his home, which is a block from a small playground. Even if the transaction occurs behind closed doors on private property, and even if it occurs at night when there are no children present at the playground, this would still potentially fall under the Iowa sentence enhancement, and this person could face up to 5 years in prison simply because of where he lives.

People who face felony possession, distribution and other controlled substance charges should immediately seek their defense options in order to address any legal issues and avoid serious consequences. Understanding the charges and the potential consequences, and then presenting a well-executed defense, are critical steps to keep people from going to jail when the punishment simply doesn't fit the crime.

Source: Iowa Code, "Chapter 124 Controlled Substances," accessed Oct. 12, 2014

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