Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge.
The defendant appeals his conviction of possession of a controlled substance following the denial of his motion to suppress.
Jeffery A. Wright of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Andrea Petrovich, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
Jason Vanderweide appeals from his conviction of third-offense possession of a controlled substance as a habitual offender. He contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress.
Because the officer had reasonable suspicion criminal activity was afoot, the stop and seizure did not violate Vanderweide's constitutional rights. The officer also had a reasonable belief his safety was in danger when he asked Vanderweide to step out of the vehicle and performed a pat-down search of Vanderweide's person. Because the search and seizure were constitutional, we affirm.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
On January 7, 2012, Des Moines Police Officer Garth House stopped a vehicle because its driver's side mirror was missing. As he approached the vehicle, Officer House noticed a Sons of Silence gang sticker on the rear windshield. When he reached the driver's window, he noticed the steering column was broken and had been wired with a toggle switch to start and stop the vehicle.
The driver of the vehicle, Vanderweide, was "very civil" and provided Officer House with his driver's license. He explained the vehicle belonged to his mother and the toggle switch was installed because the vehicle "was kind of messed up." Officer House returned to his squad car to check the driver and vehicle information. A check of the license plate showed the vehicle had not been reported stolen and the vehicle description matched the vehicle driven by Vanderweide. Officer House also confirmed the vehicle was registered to a woman, although her last name was different than Vanderweide's. A check of Vanderweide's driver's license revealed he had seven convictions for possession of a controlled substance and was a Sons of Silence gang member.
Officer House again approached the vehicle to see if its VIN matched the VIN associated with the license plate. Concerned about Vanderweide's gang affiliation and drug convictions, Officer House asked Vanderweide to step out of the vehicle. Upon stepping out, Officer House noticed a large, folding knife sticking out of Vanderweide's pocket. When asked if he had any weapons on his person, Vanderweide replied "no."
Given the inconsistency in Vanderweide's statement about having a weapon, Officer House asked Vanderweide to consent to a pat-down, and Vanderweide consented. While performing the pat-down, the officer felt a lump in Vanderweide's coin pocket. He placed Vanderweide in handcuffs and asked him what was in his pocket. Vanderweide stated it was marijuana. Officer House confiscated the item, which was confirmed to be marijuana.
Vanderweide was charged with possession of a controlled substance, third offense as a habitual offender. He pleaded not guilty and filed a motion to suppress the marijuana, alleging the seizure and search of his person violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The district court denied the motion following a hearing. Vanderweide consented to a ...