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Marijuana possession carries harsh penalties in Iowa

In recent years a number of states have substantially decriminalized marijuana and a few have even legalized it for recreational use. But in Iowa, being charged with possession of even a small amount of marijuana can lead to serious penalties.

Possession of any amount of marijuana in Iowa can result in a county jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000. On a second offense, a conviction can result in imprisonment for up to a year and a fine not to exceed $1,875. Third and subsequent offenses can result in even harsher sentences.

Fortunately it is possible to defend against marijuana possession charges. One of the first lines of defense is to determine whether the search that led to discovery of the marijuana was legal. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects residents from unreasonable search and seizure. Different rules apply depending on whether the search was conducted pursuant to a warrant, and whether the search was of the suspect's person, vehicle, home or other location. If the court determines the search was illegal, the drugs seized can be ruled inadmissible at trial, which often results in the prosecution dropping the charges.

Other defenses include the argument that the marijuana did not belong to the person accused. For example, if the marijuana was found in a certain room in a home, the state will generally have to prove the defendant knew the drug was there and had access to that room. Defendants charged with drug possession following an undercover sale may be able to argue entrapment, which means police used undue pressure to tempt a person to commit a crime they were not predisposed to commit.

Source: Iowa Code ยงยง 124.401(5); 903.1(1)(b); accessed June 6, 2015

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