Possession of a Controlled Substance in Iowa

All states regulate and control the possession of controlled dangerous substances (CDS), though each differs in its exact definition of CDS and the penalties for their possession. Iowa classifies not only well-known drugs like marijuana, heroin, and cocaine as CDS, but also the compounds used to manufacture them.

This article discusses the possession of CDS for personal use only. Possessing CDS for personal use carries different penalties than convictions for making or selling CDS. For more information on penalties for making and selling CDS, see Sale of a Controlled Substance in Iowa.

Also, while considered a CDS, this article does not cover Iowa’s marijuana possession laws. To learn more about that topic, see Iowa Marijuana Laws.

How Iowa Classifies CDS

Iowa divides CDS into five “schedules.” These are used to determine the dangerousness of the CDS, and penalties for possessing increased penalties for possessing certain schedules near schools or other public places (as described in the section entitled "Possession Near a School or Public Park", below).

  • Schedule I drugs (such as some opiates or certain stimulants). These drugs have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.203.)
  • Schedule II drugs (such as raw opium and cocaine). These drugs have a high potential for abuse, but also have one or more severely restricted medical uses. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.205.)
  • Schedule III drugs (such as LSD and anabolic steroids). These drugs have a potential for abuse that is less than drugs in Schedules I and II (abuse leading to moderate or low physical dependence, or high psychological dependence), and accepted medical uses. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.207.)
  • Schedule IV drugs (such as flurazepam and butorphanol). These drugs have a low potential for abuse compared with Schedule III drugs (abuse leading to limited physical or psychological dependence), and currently accepted medical uses. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.209.)
  • Schedule V drugs (such as some precursors to methamphetamines like pseudoephedrine). These drugs have a  low potential for abuse when compared with Schedule IV drugs, and currently accepted medical uses. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.211.)

If you’ve been arrested or charged for CDS possession, you’ll need to consult the Iowa Code that lists precisely which drugs fit into each group.

Possession and Criminal Penalties

In Iowa, the criminal penalties for CDS possession depend on whether the violation is a first or subsequent conviction. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.401(5).)

  • First conviction.  A first conviction is a serious misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of between $315 and $1,875, up to one year in jail, or both.
  • Second conviction.  A second conviction is an aggravated misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of between $625 and $6,250 and one year in jail; or no fine and up to two years in prison.
  • Third and subsequent convictions. A third or subsequent conviction is a class D felony. Penalties include a fine of between $750 and $7,500, up to five years in prison, or both.

As noted above, marijuana possession is treated differently than possession of other controlled substances. For more information about marijuana laws in Iowa, see Iowa Marijuana Laws.

Possession Near a School or Public Park

Possessing a Schedule I, II, or III CSD on or within 1,000 feet of elementary or high school property; a public park, swimming pool, recreation center; or on a marked school bus incurs additional penalties. In addition to the applicable penalties described above, the defendant will face 100 hours of community service work for a public agency or nonprofit charitable organization, as approved by the sentencing judge. (Iowa Code Ann. Section 124.401B.)

Possession with a Valid Prescription

Some CDS, (like codeine, a common painkiller), may be possessed legally so long as the holder has a valid prescription. (Iowa Health and Safety Code Section 124.401(5).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you are charged with possession of CDS, you face a lengthy incarceration and steep fines. You should meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney who regularly practices in your geographic area to discuss the facts of your case, any possible defenses, whether you should go to trial, and your rights regarding plea agreements.

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