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West Des Moines Iowa Criminal Defense Law Blog

Could your CBD get you an OWI?

CBD, a non-psychoactive derivative of the cannabis plant, is widely available online and even in some retail stores. Nevertheless, it may not be fully legal and you should take care when using it. In Iowa, we only allow people with state-qualifying conditions to use medical CBD with a doctor's prescription, as long as the CBD contains very little THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Many people believe that CBD has health benefits beyond the medicinal uses for which it is approved. According to Consumer Reports, approximately 64 million people have tried CBD in the past two years.

Sports betting still needs regulation before bets can be placed

As you may know, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law last week that allows certain types of sports betting in Iowa by gamblers 21 and older. Although the law technically went into effect upon Reynolds' signature, the State Racing and Gambling Commission still has to draft regulations to make the betting fully legal.

Under the new law, what will be legal are bets on college and professional games, racing, and other sporting events, including fantasy sports, as long as the outcome is determined by the performances of two or more individual athletes.

Is it legal hemp or illegal weed? Police often can't tell

It's an interesting time in America. The majority of states (although not Iowa) have legalized marijuana for medical use. Most states, including Iowa, have legalized low-THC CBD, a cannabis derivative, for medical purposes. And, last year, the federal government legalized hemp, a relative of marijuana that contains almost no THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. However, states that have anti-hemp laws have generally not lifted them.

As a result, we live in a patchwork of laws that vary from location to location. In some places, marijuana is legal for all adult purposes under state law -- yet it's still illegal under federal law. In others, low-THC CBD products are considered completely legal -- but it's unclear whether CBD is federally illegal. Then, there are places where hemp is illegal under state law but legal under federal law.

Research: It's easier than you think for cops to get your consent

Would you let a stranger in a lab coat search through your phone? What about a police officer? How about if you had a good reason to refuse, such as evidence of a crime?

Questions like these come up all the time in criminal defense. That's because both the U.S. and Iowa constitutions prohibit unreasonable searches and seizures. That's supposed to mean that, in general, police have to get a warrant before searching or arresting you. However, there are a wide variety of exceptions to the warrant requirement.

Official misconduct, bad forensic evidence cause false convictions

The National Registry of Exonerations recently issued its 2018 annual report. One hundred fifty-one people were exonerated in the U.S. last year after having been wrongfully convicted of various crimes ranging from traffic offenses to homicide. Together, the exonerees lost 1,639 years of their freedom.

Police and prosecutorial misconduct played an outsized role in convicting the people who were exonerated last year. In almost a third of the cases, a Chicago police sergeant and his officers were found to have framed the defendants for drug crimes and weapons offenses as part of an extortion scheme. Since the scheme was uncovered, dozens of defendants have been exonerated.

The words you speak in public could incite a legal response

There are many things you can do for fun during the summertime in Iowa. Now that the snow has melted, it is a great time to get outdoors and socialize with your friends. But did you know that in some circumstances, you could face arrest for doing so?

Although you might think you are minding your own business, you could get in trouble for disturbing the peace of those around you. And while this could include behavior that others may consider offensive, such as swearing, certain laws strictly prohibit you from damaging and making property unclean. But when it comes to disturbing the peace, do you know what Iowa's disorderly conduct laws entail?

Arrested for OWI or marijuana possession while celebrating 4/20?

Although marijuana remains illegal in Iowa and federally, many people still use it. Moreover, a lot of people are under the misimpression that driving under the influence of marijuana isn't dangerous or illegal. Unfortunately, that's not true.

Our operating while intoxicated (OWI) law applies to any driver who is impaired by the effects of any substance. That includes alcohol, marijuana, other illicit drugs and even prescription medications.

In parts of Iowa, 20% of all arrests are for marijuana possession

With so many states legalizing marijuana, you might think that the urgency to enforce marijuana laws is waning. After all, states wouldn't be legalizing if they were still convinced that marijuana's effects were as dangerous as those of other drugs.

Yet whatever the change in opinion has brought 33 states to broadly legalize cannabis for medical and even recreational purposes, it still has not affected the federal government. That leaves marijuana illegal at the federal level. It has not persuaded lawmakers in Iowa to go beyond a very limited exception for low-THC medical CBD.

Facial recognition could get you broadly banned after shoplifting

Sometimes, the non-court consequences of criminal activity are as serious as the consequences of a conviction. These "collateral consequences," however, have traditionally come as the result of criminal prosecution. Most of the time, society doesn't inflict serious consequences on people who have never been convicted.

As technology outpaces tradition and law, however, the times are changing. Now, technology is putting the ability to judge people and inflict consequences in the hands of businesses. And, they aren't necessarily making certain their judgments are fair and free from bias or mistake.

Data: Federal white-collar crime prosecutions hit all-time low

New data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the federal government has been prosecuting fewer white-collar crimes under this administration than it had done previously. Researchers from Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse found a 35.7-percent dip in the number of cases filed in January over the same period five years ago.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which prosecutes crime at the federal level, filed 337 new white-collar crime prosecutions in January, according to the researchers. Of those, 42 were assigned to magistrate judges, which generally indicates the cases were "petty offenses."

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