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State v. Legore

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 10, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JESSE LEGORE, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Timothy T. Jarman, District Associate Judge.

Jesse Legore appeals from his conviction for operating while intoxicated, second offense.

Zachary S. Hindman of Bikakis, Mayne, Arneson, Hindman & Hisey, Sioux City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Martha E. Trout, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick Jennings, County Attorney, and Athena Ladeas, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

POTTERFIELD, J.

Jesse Legore appeals from his conviction for operating while intoxicated, second offense. He argues the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress, because the officer's cause to initiate the stop was based on a mistake of law. We reverse and remand finding the district court improperly denied the motion to suppress because the officer's mistake was one of law.

I. Facts and Proceedings.

On May 29, 2011, Legore was driving eastbound on a street. A police officer was driving westbound on the same street. The officer observed a sign posting the speed limit in the west-bound lane at twenty-five miles per hour. No speed was posted in the eastbound lane. The officer ran a speed check on Legore's vehicle and found it was moving at a rate of thirty-four miles per hour. The officer stopped Legore for exceeding the speed limit. The officer smelled alcohol on Legore and arrested him, ultimately finding his blood alcohol content was .09. Legore was charged with operating while intoxicated, second offense.

Legore filed a motion to suppress, arguing the stop of his vehicle by the officer was based on the officer's mistake of law (that the speed limit was twenty-five miles per hour), and therefore the stop was illegal. The court denied the motion, concluding "if the speed limit applicable to the defendant's vehicle in this case was not twenty-five miles per hour as thought by the officer making the traffic stop, the mistake is one of fact, not of law." Legore filed a motion to reconsider, based on evidence that the applicable speed for the eastbound lane was forty-five miles per hour as the area was a "suburban district" as defined by Iowa Code section 321.1(79) (2011). The State resisted, and the district court found "it is very likely that the applicable speed limit for eastbound traffic such as the defendant's vehicle was forty-five miles per hour even though westbound traffic on the same section of the street is limited to twenty-five miles per hour because of a sign." However, the court confirmed its earlier decision, finding the officer's mistake was one of fact, and that it was reasonable.

Legore submitted a written waiver of jury trial and stipulated to trial on the minutes. He was convicted of operating while intoxicated, second offense. He appeals from these proceedings.

II. Analysis.

Legore argues the district court improperly denied his motion to suppress. We review this argument de novo. State v. Louwrens, 792 N.W.2d 649, 651 (Iowa 2010).

Our precedent is clear that a mistake of fact may justify a traffic stop. . . . However, we have elected not to extend this permissiveness to mistakes of law, holding a mistake of law is not sufficient to justify a stop. "[E]vidence derived from a stop based on a law ...

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