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4800 Mills Civic Pkwy
Suite 218
West Des Moines, IA 50265

Drug Charges

Iowa State and Federal Drug Laws

Des Moines Criminal Defense Attorney Jeff Mathias

Here in Iowa we are dealing with both state drug law like the Chapter 124 of the Iowa Code, the Iowa Controlled Substances Act and federal law – the United States Controlled Substances Act. Since the 1970’s the United States Congress has found it politically appealing to institute increasingly strict drug laws that include mandatory minimum sentences. These cases are also expensive to prosecute, requiring many prosecutors with big budgets. Those charged with dealing drugs in particular often find themselves in Iowa Federal Court for these political and economic reasons.

There are also racial overtones in drug prosecutions. It has been well documented that possession of drugs favored by white defendants carry lesser penalties than those favored by non whites . Finally, in the United States we have what has been described as a Prison Industrial Complex. There was a striking rise in prisoner populations that started with the passing of the Controlled Substances Act during the Nixon administration in 1970. We even have many private prisons operating for profit today in the United States. The profit motive of these companies and their financial contributions to members of Congress have alarmed many Americans.

Fortunately we in the midst of an effort to roll back some of the worst of mandatory minimum sentences as their futility has finally become apparent and there has even been some recognition across party lines that our drug laws largely warehouse and disenfranchise non-white Americans. This is a positive development, especially in view of the fact that abuse of prescription drugs far exceeds usage of non-prescription controlled substances.

We are also seeing a nascent movement toward de-criminalizing marijuana possession now in. In Iowa, even medical use of marijuana has been a source of great controversy. Many wonder why we can’t trust doctors who prescribe other highly addictive controlled substances to also administer marijuana. See Iowa Medical Marijuana controversy.

The Iowa Controlled Substances Act

Schedule I Drugs in Iowa – Dangerous and Highly Addictive

Include Heroin, LSD, Mescaline and Marijuana

Schedule II Drugs in Iowa – High Potential for Abuse

Include Morphine, Codeine, Oxycodone, Methamphetamines and Cocaine

Schedule III Drugs in Iowa- Medical Use but with Moderate Risks

Include Stimulants, depressants and steroids

Schedule IV Drugs in Iowa Acceptable Medical Use, Low Risk of Dependency

Schedule V Drugs in Iowa – Catch all for remaining substances, low risk

Iowa Possession Charges

First Offense- Serious Misdemeanor, up to 1 year in jail and up to $1,875 in fines

Second Offense- Aggravated Misdemeanor, up to 2 years in prison and up to $6,250 in fines

Third Offense- Class D Felony, up to 5 years in prison and up to $7,500 in fines

Possession of Firearms Doubles Jail/Prison Time

Under the Iowa code, if the defendant is in possession of a gun, the prison or jail time doubles .

Sale to Minors

Iowa drug laws make sale of marijuana to a minor a felony with a 5 year minimum sentence .

The U.S. Controlled Substances Act

The United States Controlled Substances Act is characterized by mandatory minimum sentences. Many first offense trafficking charges involve either 5 or 10 year mandatory minimum sentences. Second offenses can carry mandatory minimum sentences up to life. This is a big reason we have the highest prison population in the world per capita. Federal drug laws are confusing to say the least. Even Federal Judges who deal with these statutes on a daily basis (since drug cases dominate the docket of many federal courts) struggle to determine the correct sentence. In these cases, it is best to retain an attorney who does a high volume of Federal Drug defenses.


Meth has become less visible in Iowa in recent years, but it is still a big problem. Meth is a Schedule II controlled substance. Clients I have represented in the past with meth tell me all meth users are meth dealers because it is so addictive they will do anything they have to in order to get their next meth and dealing is the quickest way.

Additional Resources

See National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, for attorneys seeking reform of drug laws, see National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – Drug Law Reform. The Iowa Department of Corrections. The Drug Enforcement Agency is charged with enforcing the controlled substances Act. The Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement assists law enforcement throughout Iowa. Des Moines Police Narcotics Unit handles drug cases locally. The Polk County Drug and Gang Task Force. Jeff also handles Iowa OWI defense .

Des Moines Iowa criminal defense attorney Jeff Mathias handles Drug Offenses along with other criminal law matters including domestic violence and also bankruptcy and family law matters. Jeff’s office is located at 4800 Mills Civic Parkway, Suite 218 in West Des Moines, Iowa 50265, 515-261-7526, 1-800-997-1395.