Who trains law enforcement in conducting criminal interdiction traffic stops?

Nowadays, every professional has to keep his or her skills up-to-date and to continue education throughout a career. Law enforcement is not an exception. Many companies offer services in the sphere of the law enforcement training. Officers can attend seminars on street crimes, defensive tactics, criminal intelligence, active shooter training and many other programs.

Police officers receive training in how to conduct drug interdiction traffic stops. A lot of companies encourage officers to get that training and claim that the drug interdiction training is important for a successful career in law enforcement. For example, the “Desert Snow” Program allegedly teaches officers how to conduct drug interdiction stops. A lot of police officers attended the Desert Snow training program and tried to copy it in some way to train other policemen. Many of the teaching of these programs are of doubtful legality and could be leading to systematic violations of the rights of persons traveling the roadways.

Every driver should anticipate that a policeman who stops a car will try to use criminal interdiction techniques on him or her. In In re Pardee, the case that I litigated and won, the Iowa Supreme Court limited what policemen can do during traffic stops. Accordingly, if you were charged with narcotics possession as a result of the routine traffic stop, you may have a defense. Even if you think that the policeman did everything right, he might have not. At Stowers and Sarcone, we know a lot about drug interdiction traffic stops. If you have any questions, please call me. I will be happy to help!

Misidentifications by Eyewitnesses


For centuries, prosecutors have been using eyewitnesses’ identifications in criminal trials. At the same time, eyewitnesses’ identifications are very unreliable. That became even more apparent when attorneys started to use DNA as a tool for exoneration. Now, DNA exoneration cases persuasively show that the convictions of approximately seventy-five percent of innocent persons involved mistaken eyewitnesses’ identifications. Subsequent research has continued to question the reliability of eyewitnesses’ identifications. For example, in 2011, the American Psychological Association observed that controlled experiments and studies showed that the rate of incorrect identifications was approximately thirty-three percent.

However, police continue to rely heavily on eyewitnesses’ identifications. This practice has dramatic consequences for suspects. For example, if an eyewitness misidentifies a person during the investigation of a crime, police often focus all their effort on that person and stop searching for other possible suspects to the crime.

At trials, jurors also give great weight to eyewitness testimony, and often tend to over-credit eyewitnesses. Not surprisingly, jurors have found innocent people guilty based only on a single witness’s mistaken identification testimony. As a result, a confident eyewitness who incorrectly identified a defendant, but was persuasive in court, can completely change the outcome of the trial.

If you have been identified as a suspect, you should immediately contact us for assistance. You need attorneys who will zealously challenge eyewitness identification testimony. Stowers and Sarcone has extensive experience in this area, and we are ready to defend you!

Federal Drug Charges vs State Drug Charges

Federal drug charges vs state drug charges


What makes a federal drug charge vs a state drug charge? Federal drug charges are prosecuted in the United States District Court by the United States Attorney’s Office. State drug charges are prosecuted by a local district attorney, state attorney or county attorney (depending on the state) in state court. In Iowa, federal drug charges often result in more severe punishment than similar state charges. Avoiding federal court is preferable for a person charged with drug crimes in Iowa.


There are a multitude of reasons that a person might be prosecuted in federal court vs state court. They include but are not limited to:

  • Whether federal or state agents ran the investigation
  • The size of the drug distribution conspiracy
  • The type and quantity of drugs involved
  • Ties to larger drug organizations
  • Role in the drug organization or the offense
  • Cooperation with the police or lack thereof
  • Other crimes committed by the individual or organization
  • Involvement of weapons such as guns and other firearms
  • Quality and quantity of evidence generated from the investigation
  • Particular attitudes and policies of the United State’s Attorney’s Office

Charges often start in state court only to be dismissed when federal charges are filed. Iowa’s County Attorneys do not need a grand jury indictment to bring charges. Iowa’s federal prosecutor’s need a grand jury indictment to bring federal drug charges. The state may bring charges simply to give federal authorities time to procure an indictment from the grand jury.


In Iowa drug punishments are harshest in federal court. Almost every federal drug trafficking charge carries at least a 5 year mandatory minimum sentence. The vast majority of federal drug trafficking charges have a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence. In addition to the minimum sentence, drug trafficking charges in federal court can have maximum sentences from 40 years to life in prison. A judge is free to sentence a person between the minimum and maximum for the charged offense. Judges are advised in federal court by the federal sentencing guidelines. Look for a future post about those guidelines.

In state court, depending on drug type and quantity each drug trafficking charge has a set sentence of 5 years for a “D” felony, 10 years for a “C” felony and 25 years for a “B” felony. Additionally, some charges have three year mandatory minimums and there are a number of potential enhancements which could double or triple the sentence.

The difference between a 10 year sentence in federal court and a 25 year sentence in state court is significant. In state court the sentence is indeterminate. This means that the maximum a person can do is 25 years. However, most persons receive good time off their sentence. Good time essentially cuts 45-50% off the sentence (so 25 is more like 13). Additionally, good time will reduce any mandatory minimum. The parole board can parole a person at almost anytime. In fact, for FY2014 the average time served on a “B” felony drug charge in Iowa was 36.3 months or just over 3 years.

In contrast federal prisoners earn only 54 days of good time credit per year. There is no parole in the federal system. A person sentenced to 10 years in federal prison will serve close to 8.5 years. On average, a person sentenced to 10 years in federal court will serve 3x as much time in prison as a person sentenced to 25 years in Iowa state court.

There are other differences between federal drug charges and state drug charges. Some involve particular application of constitutional protections. The differences discussed here are the major ones and tend to be most important. Whether you are charged in federal or state court, all drug charges are serious. You need a skilled lawyer who will not back down and not give in to the government. At Stowers & Sarcone, PLC we focus on drug charges. Each year we handle a multitude of state and federal drug cases. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime call us today! (515) 224-7446.