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Des Moines Criminal Law Blog

Iowa Police to Wear Body-Cameras?

In the wake of the Ferguson decision, there may be changes ahead for Iowa police officers. Various Iowa law enforcement departments have unveiled that they plan to equip officers with body-worn cameras within the next year in order to increase officer accountability and transparency. In both Des Moines schools and Clive, officers already use body worn cameras during any time they interact with the public. Soon, Cedar Rapids and West Des Moines will be added to that list as they enact similar policies.

Pharmacy Board Delays Marijuana Reclassification

On Wednesday, three members of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy recommended to the full Board that marijuana be reclassified as a schedule II drug. If passed, the proposal would have resulted in the Pharmacy Board making an official recommendation to the Iowa Legislature for the upcoming session. However, the full Board declined to decide the issue, unanimously voting to table the discussion until January of 2015.

Study Says Iowa Police Arrest Blacks at Higher Rates

In the wake of the Ferguson riots over the summer, communities and states are taking a closer look at their arrest data in regard to African Americans. Iowa is no exception. A study conducted by the Des Moines Register and USA Today catalogued arrest data for black citizens and compared it to citizens of other races. The study used data from the U.S. Census, FBI, and U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, and found that black people in Iowa are being arrested at much greater rates than other races. For example, in Bettendorf, Iowa, where the rates were disproportionately highest, black people were arrested at 9.9 times the rate of other races, even though they make up only 2% of Bettendorf's population. This disproportion is even greater than that of Ferguson, Missouri, the focus of the media, where black people are 3 times more likely to be arrested.

Iowa's Felon-Voting Laws May Again Be On Their Way To the Supreme Court

An Iowa mother, Kelli Jo Griffen, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit two weeks ago in order to challenge Iowa's policy of disenfranchising convicted felons. In Iowa, citizens who have previously been convicted of a felony cannot vote without special approval from the Governor. In order to get this approval, ex-felons must complete a detailed application with the Governor's office, submit proof that court costs are being paid, and request a criminal history check. Iowa is one of three states which have such laws, the others being Kentucky and Florida.

Mrs. Lady's Mexican Restaurant May Inspire Civil Forfeiture Reform

Last week, the New York Times published an article about Carol Hinders, an Iowa woman who had over $33,000 dollars seized from her family-run business last year. Ms. Hinders owns and operates Mrs. Lady's, a Mexican restaurant out of Arnold's Park, Iowa. Ms. Hinders has not been charged with any crime, and she likely will not ever be. Rather, her assets were seized through "civil forfeiture," a process whereby authorities may seize any property suspected to be involved in a crime. From 2005 to 2014, civil forfeiture resulted in $242,627 in assets seized, with only five of these seizures prosecuted. In Ms. Hinders' case, the money in her account raised suspicion merely because there were frequent deposits made below the IRS's federal reporting limit of $10,000. In order to get her money back, Ms. Hinders' must litigate her claim to a jury; however, this will not occur until the middle of 2015.

Iowa's Concealed Carry Law and Alcohol Don't Mix

The recent political campaigns have brought with them a slew of discussion over Iowan's Second Amendment rights. The Iowa Code sections protecting these rights, found in Iowa Code Chapter 724, have undergone significant change in recent years. Most notably, Senate File 2379, a bill that significantly amends Iowa's permit to carry statutes, took effect in 2011. Among the changes that this concealed-carry bill made was enacting Iowa Code 724.4C, which provided that:

Federal Search Warrant on Iowa Home Care

On October 28, 2014 state and federal agents executed a search warrant at the offices of Iowa Home Care. The federal search warrant was issued upon a showing of probable cause to believe evidence of one or more crimes will be found during the search. Iowa Home Care, based in West Des Moines, is a business which helps adults, children and seniors by providing in-home nursing and therapy services. The company has offices all over Iowa including in Boone, Fort Dodge, Marshalltown, Ottumwa and Pella. Although West Des Moines is located within the Federal Southern District of Iowa, it appears attorneys with the Northern District of Iowa United States Attorney's Office are handling the investigation. During the raid a number of boxes were carried out by federal agents and hauled away. An article about the raid can be found on here on Kcci.com.

Iowa Legalizes Medical Marijuana, Sort Of

Late last night the Iowa Legislature passed a bill permitting the lawful possession of cannabidiol to treat epilepsy.  Possession is permitted only with a neurologist recommendation and state issued ID card.  Only the patient and select care givers are permitted to possess this oil derived from marijuana plants.  Additionally, it is still unlawful to manufacture or produce marijuana or any marijuana derived medication in Iowa, so patients and caregivers seeking to purchase cannabidiol must travel to another state where it is legal to manufacture the substance.  Of course, this poses an array of additional legal problems for people who want cannabidiol because many of Iowa's bordering states still do not permit the lawful possession of the substance.  Thus, transporting it from say Colorado or California will pose legal obstacles.  The Governor still has to sign the bill but he has previously indicated his willingness to do so.  In any case, while this bill is extremely limited in its scope, it is a good first step for those who wish to see medical marijuana, or even marijuana itself, legalized in Iowa.  Usually its hard to stop the train once it starts moving.  Articles: Des Moines Register & KCCI

Johnson County Teen Who Crashed Into A Parked State Patrol Car Is Charged with Marijuana Possession and OWI

Johnson County Iowa Teens Arrested for Marijuana Possession, Driving Under the Influence and Failure to Maintain Control After Crashing Into Parked Iowa State Patrol Squad Car Two teens face criminal charges after the driver lost control of his car and crashed into a parked Iowa State Patrol Squad car. Upon questioning the car's occupants, the trooper said he could smell marijuana emanating from the vehicle. The driver admitted to having marijuana in the car. The drugs were discovered during a search. The driver refused to participate in field sobriety exercises and also refused to provide a urine sample or participate in a drug recognition expert evaluation. A preliminary breath test showed the driver was not under the influence of alcohol. Both driving under the influence of a controlled substance and driving under the influence of alcohol are prosecuted under Iowa Code Chapter 321J. Refusing to submit to chemical testing can result in lengthier license revocations and can also result in ineligibility for a deferred judgment for an operating under the influence charge. These types of charges can result in not only jail time, but also heavy fines, a criminal record, and possibly job or school related consequences. Contact Stowers & Sarcone if you find yourself in a criminal predicament and let them make sure your rights are protected.

Iowa Supreme Court Holds Prescription Drug Defense Applicable in Administrative License Revocation Proceedings

The Iowa Supreme Court released an opinion last Friday involving the application in administrative license revocation proceedings of the prescription drug defense to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. The case involved a woman who drove off the road, hitting a brick mailbox and gave a urine sample which tested positive for her prescription medications. Based on those results, the Iowa DOT revoked her license for 180 days. Although the administrative judge found the facts of her case established the prescription drug defense, the judge found it did not apply in an administrative proceeding. The Supreme Court held the defense is available in license revocation proceedings and reversed her revocation. Iowa Code Section 321J.2(11) allows for the prescription drug defense to be available only to drivers who have taken prescription medications in compliance with a doctor's instructions. The burden is on the driver to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defense applies. 321J.2(11) reads: 321J.2 "does not apply to a person operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of a drug if the substance was prescribed for the person and was taken under the prescription and in accordance with the directions of a medical practitioner as defined in chapter 155A or if the substance was dispensed by a pharmacist without a prescription pursuant to the rules of the board of pharmacy, if there is no evidence of the consumption of alcohol and the medical practitioner or pharmacist had not directed the person to refrain from operating a motor vehicle. When charged with a violation of subsection 1, paragraph "c", a person may assert, as an affirmative defense, that the controlled substance present in the person's blood or urine was prescribed or dispensed for the person and was taken in accordance with the directions of a practitioner and the labeling directions of the pharmacy, as that person and place of business are defined in section 155A.3." The Iowa Code makes it a crime to drive when under the influence of any amount of any controlled substance, resulting in the possibility of a driver having his license revoked for testing positive for a number of drugs that have no impact on driving ability, such as Prilosec or Amoxicillin. The Supreme Court followed the principle of interpretation that chapter 321J should be interpreted in a manner to avoid absurd results, stating it would be absurd to allow a driver to use the prescription drug defense in a criminal proceeding, but not in a revocation proceedings. Additionally, the Supreme Court cited to the requirement that a violation of 321J.2, the OWI charge itself is a necessary component for revocation to occur and therefore the DOT's interpretation would render that code language superfluous. No violation of 321J.2 occurs if the prescription drug defense is established, and the administrative law judge conceded it had in this case. Chapter 321J involving operating a motor vehicle while under the influence can be complex. The help of an experienced attorney can help you to know all of your rights and secure the best possible outcome to an unfortunate situation. If you or someone you know finds themselves charged under Chapter 321J, let the attorneys at Stowers & Sarcone navigate the complexity for you.


Stowers & Sarcone PLC is located in Des Moines, Iowa. Attorney Dean Stowers provides experienced criminal defense to people throughout cities that include Des Moines, Ames, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Iowa City, Mason City, Ottumwa, Hampton, Eldora, Waterloo, Carroll, Jefferson, Boone, Marshalltown, Toledo, Harlan, Audubon, Guthrie Center, Newton, Montezuma, Marengo, Atlantic, Greenfield, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Sigourney, Osceola, Chariton, Alba and Sioux City and throughout Polk County, Dallas County, Madison County, Story County, Cerro Gordo County, Franklin County, Woodbury County, Hardin County, Blackhawk County, Carroll County, Greene County, Boone County, Marshall County, Tama County, Linn County, Shelby County, Audubon County, Guthrie County, Jasper County, Poweshiek County, Iowa County, Johnson County, Pottawattamie County, Cass County, Adair County, Marion County, Mahaska County, Keokuk County, Clarke County, Lucas County, Monroe County, Wapello County and Warren County.

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