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State of Iowa v. Paul John Kramer

April 24, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
PAUL JOHN KRAMER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Robert Richter, District Associate Judge.

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

Paul Kramer contests his convictions for driving while barred, driving under suspension, and operating without registration. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

The defendant contests his convictions for driving while barred, driving under suspension, and operating without registration. On appeal, he advances three arguments: (1) the State failed to prove he was operating the pickup truck followed by the police; (2) the county attorney lacked authority to prosecute him; and (3) the police officer lacked authority to arrest him. Finding Kramer is not entitled to relief on any of his three claims, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On February 2, 2011, around 7 p.m., Cascade police officer Mitchell Kelchen followed a green Ford Ranger through town. He radioed in the license plate number to dispatch and learned the pickup truck's registration had been expired for more than one year. The driver, Paul John Kramer, pulled into his driveway just as the officer signaled him to stop. The officer followed Kramer into the driveway.

Kramer was the only person the officer saw in the truck. A video-recording of the stop shows Kramer coming from the driver's side of the truck back to the squad car. The officer told Kramer about the expired registration. They walked together to the pickup, where Kramer brushed snow from his bumper to reveal the expired sticker on the plate.

Kramer could not produce a driver's license but told the officer his name and date of birth. Officer Kelchen relayed these facts to dispatch was informed the officer that Kramer's license was barred and suspended. The officer told Kramer he would be arrested for driving while barred. Before his arrest, Kramer took a call on his cell phone. The officer heard Kramer tell the caller: "Evidently the tag on my truck was expired so I got stopped."

The State filed a trial information on February 17, 2011, charging Kramer with driving while barred, in violation of Iowa Code section 321.561 (2011). The State also charged Kramer with two simple misdemeanors: driving under suspension in violation of section 321.218 and operating without registration in violation of section 321.98.

Kramer moved to dismiss his charges on September 7, 2011, alleging Officer Kelchen lacked authority under Iowa Code sections 321.1(50) and 801.4(11) to arrest him. The district court overruled the motion to dismiss. Kramer filed another motion to dismiss on February 27, 2012. This time Kramer challenged the authority of the county attorney to file charges against him. The court overruled the second motion to dismiss.

The case proceeded to a bench trial. The court found beyond a reasonable doubt that Kramer was operating a motor vehicle on February 2, 2011, without proper license or registration. The court sentenced Kramer to one year incarceration but suspended all but seven days and fined him $625.

Kramer timely filed a notice of appeal from his indictable offense and sought discretionary review of his two simple misdemeanor convictions. The supreme court granted his application for discretionary review from his simple misdemeanor convictions and joined them in this appeal.

II. Standards of Review

When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, we review the record to decide if substantial evidence supports the verdict. State v. Ross, 512 N.W.2d 830, 832 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993). The same test applies in bench trials as jury trials. Id. The decision in a bench trial has the same force as a jury verdict. Id. We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and entertain all reasonable inferences which arise from the evidence. Id. Substantial evidence means evidence which would convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Blair, 347 N.W.2d 416, 419 (Iowa 1984). "Circumstantial ...


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