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State of Iowa v. Joseph Michael Jones

February 13, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Gregory Brandt, District Associate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tabor, J.

Joseph Michael Jones appeals from his conviction of operating while intoxicated, second offense. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Danilson and Tabor, JJ.

Joseph Michael Jones appeals his conviction of operating while intoxicated, second offense. He contends the district court should have granted his motion to suppress the methamphetamine pipe discovered following a warrantless patdown of his pants pocket. He also argues the district court should have suppressed the chemical analysis of his urine sample because the State did not establish reasonable grounds for invoking implied consent.

Because we find the peace officer could have invoked implied consent based on the occurrence of a personal injury accident, coupled with a reasonable belief Jones was driving while drug impaired, we affirm the ruling denying the motion to suppress the laboratory results showing Jones's urine sample tested positive for methamphetamine. Finding that issue dispositive, we decline to address the question whether the peace officer lawfully seized the pipe.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In the early morning hours of June 1, 2011, Polk County Sherriff's Deputy

Keith Romp witnessed a single-car accident on Pleasant Hill Boulevard in Pleasant Hill. A black Pontiac Grand Am veered from the southbound lane of traffic into the northbound lane before striking a light pole on the shoulder of the road. It appeared the driver, later identified as Jones, suffered a seizure and was unconscious at the time of the crash.

When Pleasant Hill police officer Chad Hulen responded to the scene, Jones was sitting in the driver's seat. Hulen recalled: "[H]e was wanting to keep getting out of the vehicle, and we just kept telling him to stay in the vehicle because we didn't know what type of injuries that he may have." Hulen called paramedics to the scene so they could determine whether Jones needed medical attention.

Officer Hulen had both training and experience in recognizing drug impairment and could identify signs of methamphetamine use, including constricted pupils, "paranoid" actions, slow response time, and sweating despite cool temperatures.

At the scene of the Pleasant Hill accident, Officer Hulen observed Jones was sweating "very profusely" and his pupils were "pinpoint in size." The officer asked for his name, but Jones did not answer. Hulen checked whether Jones could name the president of the United States, but Jones could not. Jones also failed to address the officer's inquiries whether he was in pain. Officer Hulen asked Jones four times if he had any medical conditions that would cause him to pass out; Jones finally said he had been experiencing seizures for the last three to four years.

Officer Hulen asked Jones if he was carrying a cell phone. Jones did not respond. Hulen testified Jones's cell phone may have helped the officer find "somebody who knew who he was to let me know what was going on." Observing a bulge in Jones's front pants pocket, Officer Hulen reached into the car and patted the pocket. The officer asked, "Is this a cell phone?" as Jones tried to turn away. In Jones's pocket, Officer Hulen felt a tube with a round, circular object at the end, which the officer thought was consistent with the shape of a pipe used to smoke methamphetamine. The officer did not seize the pipe immediately.

Responding to the police call, paramedics arrived at the scene and determined Jones needed medical attention. They removed him from the car to a back board. As the paramedics tried to strap him down, Jones was acting, in Officer Hulen's view, "very paranoid, still trying to move around." Officer Hulen then patted Jones down for weapons, calling it "standard procedure" to ensure the paramedics' safety. In addition to seizing the methamphetamine pipe, the officer found loose change and eye drops.

The paramedics transported Jones to the hospital. Through further investigation, Officer Hulen discovered Jones's identity and interviewed him at the hospital. On the standard form prepared by the Iowa Department of Transportation, Officer Hulen checked two of the seven boxes indicating the grounds for invoking implied consent. See Iowa Code ยง 321J.6 (2011). Hulen indicated Jones "was placed under arrest for violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2" and "submitted to a PBT [preliminary breath test] which indicated an alcohol concentration of less than eight hundredths (0.08) and the peace ...

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