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State v. Johnson

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DANIEL ALOIS JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

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

Daniel Alois Johnson challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

Martha M. McMinn, Sioux City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick Jennings, County Attorney, and Athena Ladeas, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

DANILSON, J.

Daniel Alois Johnson appeals the denial of his motion to suppress. He contends the district court erred by admitting evidence obtained by an unconstitutional search of his automobile and admitting statements obtained after an unconstitutional interrogation. He asks that we suppress the evidence and statements and reverse his conviction. We affirm.

I. Background and Proceedings

On September 27, 2011, Sioux City Police Officer Michael Sitzman initiated a traffic stop for an improperly working head lamp on the vehicle Johnson was driving. The traffic stop was recorded by the on-board camera of the police car. The officer approached the vehicle, identified himself, advised Johnson—the only person in the vehicle—of the reason for the stop, and asked for his license and registration. Officer Sitzman returned to his police car and completed a records check which indicated Johnson had been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia in December 2010. At that time, Officer Sitzman requested a K-9 unit to the scene and was advised that it would take some time before the unit could arrive. He then returned to the vehicle and asked Johnson to step out. Officer Sitzman escorted Johnson to the front of the car and pointed out the broken headlight. After Johnson confirmed he saw the issue, Officer Sitzman asked him when he was last arrested for drugs. Johnson admitted he had been arrested in December. The officer then asked if there was presently anything illegal in the car. Johnson admitted there was marijuana and a paraphernalia pipe in the front seat. Officer Sitzman placed Johnson in handcuffs and advised him that he was not under arrest but was being detained. Sitzman asked Johnson if he "had any objection" to him getting the drugs out of the car. Johnson agreed to the search. Officer Sitzman removed the illicit substances from the car and placed Johnson under arrest.

Johnson was charged by trial information with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2011). Prior to trial, he filed a motion to suppress, alleging that both the physical evidence and statements made were obtained by the arresting officer in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article 1, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution.

After a hearing on the motion, the district court entered an order denying the motion in all respects. It found that "the [arresting] officer did not engage in an unlawful expansion of the 'seizure' initiated by the traffic stop" and noted that "from the time the officer activated his flashing lights to initiate the traffic stop to the point in time when the defendant admitted that illegal drugs were in the vehicle, less than eight minutes had elapsed." Regarding the Fifth Amendment claims, the court found "the officer was not obligated to advise the defendant of his Miranda rights prior to the officer asking if there were drugs in the vehicle." In reaching its conclusion, the court determined Johnson had not been in custody because he had not been arrested, was on a street in a residential area, and was outside of his car being questioned for "less than one minute" before admitting to drugs in the vehicle.

Johnson agreed to a stipulated bench trial on the minutes of testimony. The district court found Johnson guilty of possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).

Prior to sentencing, Johnson filed a motion in arrest of judgment which reasserted his arguments for suppression. The district court denied the motion, sentenced Johnson to two days in county jail, ...


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