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Cedar Rapids Criminal Lawyer: What is Possession of a Controlled Substance?

by David A. Cmelik Law PLC


Criminal law in the State of Iowa criminalizes the knowing, intentional possession of a controlled substance "unless it was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a valid prescription or order of a practitioner while acting in the course of the practitioner's course of professional practice." Click here for the new affirmative, complete defense for possession if you possess a medical marijuana registration card from Iowa or another State.


The model criminal jury instructions require knowledge of the possession and knowledge of the nature of the controlled substance-- in other words that the defendant knew where the substance was located, could get at it if necessary, and knew that the substance he or she possessed was a controlled substance.


Possession can be constructive, or, jointly held. I liken this to the bottle of ketchup, hot sauce, or the salt shaker at your favorite sit-down diner. If you and your friends go to the diner and you sit at the table, there is generally a bottle of ketchup or a salt shaker on the table next to all of you. You all know what it is, e.g., the nature of the substance, you can get to it, and you can use it if you want to do so. You don't have to use it but it's there if you want it.


There are wrinkles to this analogy that raise more questions than answers-- what if you never intend to use the ketchup or salt shaker but you tolerate it's presence? What if the wait staff brought the ketchup to the table and put it there and you never asked for it? These are fact questions because every case is different and it takes a skilled review of the evidence to scrutinize and, possibly, challenge the seizure of contraband.


First offense possession of a controlled substance in Iowa is a serious misdemeanor, second offense is an aggravated misdemeanor, and third offense is a Class D felony.


If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Waterloo, or other Iowa community, note that a blog is not an adequate substitute for actual legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading such a blog nor by sending unsolicited information to an attorney over the Internet. Contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for an initial consultation today.

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​ Possession nine tenths of the law?   Is the constructive possession of marijuana or other controlled substance really like a salt shaker on the table when you come with your friends to your favorite sit-down diner?  Do you come to the table and embrace the salt shaker or merely tolerate it? Do others use it while you refrain? Does the wait staff bring a ketchup bottle to the table unsolicited? The analogy can explain some, but not all, of the contours of constructive, or, joint possession of contraband like marijuana. A skilled attorney whose practice is limited exclusively to criminal law can scrutinize the specific facts of a given prosecution for unlawful possession to determine whether possession lies-- in addition to potential defects in the investigation. If you or a loved one have been arrested for a serious misdemeanor, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC at 319-389-1889.

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