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West Des Moines Iowa Criminal Defense Law Blog

What are the punishments for marijuana possession?

Both the legal attitudes and public perceptions of marijuana have changed. What was once a taboo substance has become more accepted than ever nationwide and in the Midwest.

While marijuana has gained greater acceptance and legalization across the country and as close to Iowa as Illinois, it is important to remember that Iowa has not yet fully embraced the legalization of marijuana. Recreational marijuana is not legal in Iowa and there are very limited exceptions which allow for the prescription of cannabinoid oil.

Plea bargaining is not a level playing field

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court said that "plea bargaining . . . is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system; it is the criminal justice system."

Over 95% of all criminal charges in the U.S. are resolved via plea bargain. That's not simply because bringing all those people to trial would grind the courts to a halt. It's often because prosecutors use specific techniques to coerce people into agreeing to plead guilty.

Study: Iowa's incarceration rate has jumped over the past 40 years

How much has the mass incarceration trend affected Iowa? More than you might think.

The independent public policy research group Vera Institute of Justice has assembled data from state and local correctional authorities and the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics in an effort to show how each state's incarceration rates have changed over time.

Holiday OWI, traffic enforcement period continues through New Year

The holiday season is a time when people have a lot going on, from workplace events to neighborhood get-togethers and family parties. Alcohol is ubiquitous, and some people will indulge too much before driving.

According to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, 800 people died in drunk-driving accidents last December alone. Over 10,000 people died over the course of the year.

Rethinking the Drug War around fentanyl and its analogues

In the 1980s and 1990s, both states and the federal government began to crack down on drug offenses at every level. Fighting drug crime was prioritized. Mandatory minimum sentence laws were passed. Prosecutors began stacking sentences to keep people in prison for longer.

Hundreds of thousands of people were rounded up and imprisoned, many simply for possessing illicit drugs. Families were broken apart. Racial disparities began to stack up. It was the rise of mass incarceration in the United States.

Is it illegal for campus police to search your dorm room?

Going off to college is often a time for young adults to step outside of their regular routine. This typically involves moving away from your parents and living on your own or with a roommate. Living by yourself for the first time can bring up a lot of questions. You could have some concerns about your privacy rights while you are living on campus. Each university has unique guidelines that you must follow if you wish to live on campus. If you plan on living in a dorm, you may want to read over your university's housing policy. 

It's surprisingly easy to qualify as a fingerprint expert

When a criminal defendant's fingerprints are at issue, the stakes are high. The person has been accused of a crime, and those fingerprints could theoretically place them at the crime scene or otherwise indicate their involvement. People go to prison in cases where a matching fingerprint is the primary evidence.

We should expect that the standards for fingerprint analyst would be reasonably high, but The Intercept recently found that those standards are surprisingly low.

Vaping leads to new offenses, more enforcement resources

Even as marijuana use gains popularity and acceptance across the country, law enforcement agencies continue to pour resources into pursuing marijuana-related crimes. This includes states like Iowa where marijuana remains illegal on the state level. 

However, officials are not just arresting people for traditional use, possession, sale and manufacturing. They are expanding their efforts to enforce marijuana-related crimes, thanks to vaping.

Be aware of increased DUI, traffic enforcement Thanksgiving week

The holiday season is a time when people celebrate, often with alcohol. High spirits and lack of planning often mean more drunk drivers on the road. That's why officers across the state of Iowa will be engaging in extra enforcement of traffic and DUI laws.

"From our point of view, it is better to get to your destination, even if it may be a little late, than to not get there at all," said a spokesperson for the Fort Madison Police Department.

Judge: FBI must say whether it monitors social media activity

Have you ever wondered if the government is monitoring your Facebook or Instagram? They are.

According to the ACLU, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have been increasingly monitoring the social media of both Americans and non-citizens. The group filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice, seeking information about how the FBI uses social media.

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