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West Des Moines Iowa Criminal Defense Law Blog

Can DEA agents search people on Amtrak?

The next time you ride Amtrak, you may encounter an agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration asking you to allow a search of your belongings. Don't consent -- especially if you have something to hide.

The mere fact that an officer has requested a search you may make you want to consent. As we've discussed before, it's psychologically and socially challenging to turn down a cop. Indeed, 90% of all drivers agree when asked to allow a search of their vehicles -- even when they are carrying evidence of criminal activity.

5 things to keep in mind if pulled over for OWI

The best defense against an operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge in Iowa is to refrain from drinking and driving. However, drivers often take to the road after having a drink or two and are pulled over by officers under suspicion of drunk driving.

If you are pulled over, it's important to remember how to act and react to the officer's questions and instructions. If charged, contacting an experienced defense attorney is a good first step. They will make sure officers followed all the proper procedures involved in your arrest.

Iowa's Good Samaritan Law seeks to save lives

Iowans should never have to choose between saving someone's life or putting themselves in legal jeopardy in the event of a drug overdose. That is the purpose behind the state's Good Samaritan Immunity Law enacted in 2018.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports more than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, more than twice the rate from a decade ago. The Iowa Department of Public Health says, since 2005, opioid overdoses in the state have more than tripled.

Federal judge rules the terrorism watch list unconstitutional

There are approximately 1.16 million people labeled "known or suspected terrorists" on the FBI's terrorism watch list. While most of them are from foreign countries, about 4,600 people on the list as of 2017 were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents -- and many of them are completely innocent.

The terrorism watch list, officially called the Terrorist Screening Database, is much larger than the so-called "no fly list," but people included in the database experience significant harms. For example, they are often handcuffed at border crossings or forced to endure invasive secondary searches at airports.

The penalties for drinking and driving when under the age of 21

In Iowa, like many other places, the legal drinking age is 21. This isn't news to most people, nor would it be a surprise to acknowledge that people under the age of 21 sometimes also consume alcohol -- particularly college students living on their own for the first time.

The state's operating while intoxicated (OWI) laws are different for underage drinkers, however. And for someone not yet 21, it can be much easier to end up running afoul of the law.

In Iowa, dealers in illicit drugs are required to get tax stamps

Many people call it a punitive measure or an extra punishment for distributing drugs. If you're caught dealing illegal drugs in Iowa, you may be charged with tax evasion if you didn't obtain excise tax stamps for what you sell. Having the stamps proves you've paid the required taxes.

Iowa law requires even illegal distributors to permanently affix an excise tax stamp to:

  • Every 7 grams of hard drugs, like meth, cocaine or heroin
  • Every 10 dosing units
  • Every 42.5 grams of marijuana
  • Each marijuana plant

When can Iowa cops seize your property before a conviction?

Recently, the libertarian Reason magazine called attention to Linn County. The Sheriff's Office there has just purchased a BearCat G2 armored vehicle for $297,061. They apparently got the money for the military vehicle through civil asset forfeiture.

Civil asset forfeiture is where law enforcement seizes property deemed to have a connection to criminal activity. This is often done before the owner has been found guilty of any crime. It's possible to get the property back, but only by proving to a court that it had no connection to crime. Not only is that quite difficult to do, but also many defendants don't have the time or money to do so. Law enforcement gets to keep the property if the defendant fails to challenge its status successfully.

Clearing up confusion: Are CBD products still illegal in Iowa?

On May 13, 2019, Iowa's governor signed the Iowa Hemp Act. Many supporters saw this as an opportunity for products containing hemp-derived Cannabidiol (CBD) to be manufactured, sold and bought within the state.

Months later however, the legality of CBD products remains murky. So much so, Iowa's Office of the Attorney General went out of its way address the issue.

ABA, NACDL urge Congress to fully fund federal First Step Act

The American Bar Association's (ABA's) House of Delegates and the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys (NACDL) have just passed a unanimous resolution urging Congress to fully fund the federal First Step Act and to make it retroactive.

As we've discussed before on this blog, the bi-partisan First Step Act was signed into law last year and makes a number of reforms to the federal criminal justice and prison systems, such as:

  • Reducing unjust disparities in crack vs. powder cocaine sentencing and making them retroactive
  • Increasing judicial discretion in mandatory sentencing
  • Changing the penalty for "three strikes" from life in prison to 25 years
  • Requiring the Federal Bureau of Prisons to comply with certain civil rights orders
  • Expanding the use of "good time" credits that can reduce prisoners' sentences

Diversion programs limit the consequences of criminal convictions

Diversion programs offer a way for people with minimal criminal histories to avoid becoming trapped in the criminal justice system.

"You don't want to see people make that one mistake in life and have to live with it for the rest of their lives," commented the president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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