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Iowa has massive racial disparity for drug arrests

Many courthouses have a statue of Justice holding scales, often with an inscription to the effect of "Equal Justice under Law." This represents the ideal that many assume is the norm in this country. But in many cases and many instances, justice is not always been equally meted out.

A recent report finds drug arrests as one area where Iowa ranks very poorly in the administration of justice. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union/Human Rights Watch finds that for racial disparity, Iowa ranks second to last. This means that a black individual is seven times more likely to be arrested for a drug offense than someone who is white, in spite of the fact that drug use between the races is roughly equal.

A prior study found that for marijuana arrests, the performance is even worse, with the disparity of arrests for blacks being eight times greater. In addition to the prospect of jail time and fines, incarceration can have a great number of severely negative consequences. This is one of the reasons the "war on drugs" has had such a damaging effect on the African-American community in the U.S.

In Iowa, it can even affect voter turnout, as felony convictions cause a permanent loss of voting rights and can only be restored by intervention by the governor's office, something that rarely happens.

Given the great disparity in arrests, it suggests that many of those arrests may have been obtained by constitutionally questionable searches and seizures. Many drug arrests begin as a traffic stop, for some minor offense like making a turn without a signal or a burnt-out taillight.

If you have been stopped and drugs allegedly discovered, you want your attorney to closely examine every element of the stop, search and arrest, as a defective search made without probable cause could lead to the dismissal of any drug charges.

 

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