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State v. Thomas

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ANDREW WILLIAM THOMAS, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William A. Price, District Associate Judge.

A defendant contends the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence obtained following a traffic stop.

Matthew T. Lindholm of Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and James Hathaway, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

VAITHESWARAN, J.

Andrew Thomas appeals his judgment and sentence for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, second offense. He contends the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence obtained following a traffic stop.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Shortly after 2:00 a.m. one morning, a Clive police officer followed a vehicle as the driver turned left into the right lane of two south-bound lanes. He continued to follow the car at a distance of seventy-five to eighty feet. The driver merged into the left lane shortly before the lane narrowed. Soon after, the car's brake lights illuminated, and the driver returned to the right lane without signaling. The car proceeded from the right lane into a right turning lane and turned west. The officer stopped the vehicle and identified the driver as Thomas.

Suspecting Thomas was intoxicated, the officer administered field sobriety tests and a preliminary breath test (PBT). The PBT result revealed alcohol content over the legal limit. The officer arrested Thomas and administered a chemical test which revealed breath alcohol content of close to twice the legal limit.

The State charged Thomas with OWI, second offense. Thomas moved to suppress evidence obtained as a result of his traffic stop, citing the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The district court denied the motion following an evidentiary hearing. Thomas agreed to a trial on the stipulated minutes of testimony. The court found him guilty as charged and imposed sentence. Thomas appealed.

II. Analysis

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, made applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, protects citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Iowa Constitution contains "nearly identical language." See Iowa Const. art. I, § 8; State v. Kooima, N.W.2d., , 2013 WL 3238574, at *3 (Iowa 2013). Because we are able to decide the case under the Fourth Amendment, we will not engage in an analysis under the Iowa Constitution. See Kooima, N.W.2d at, 2013 WL 3238574, at *3.

"A traffic stop is unquestionably a seizure under the Fourth Amendment." State v. Tyler, 830 N.W.2d 288, 292 (Iowa 2013). The stop is reasonable if it is supported by a warrant or if it falls within an exception to the warrant requirement. State v. Kinkead, 570 N.W.2d 97, 100 (Iowa 1997). The State relies on the probable cause exception or, alternatively, on reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. Thomas responds that the district court rejected ...


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