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State v. Wasson

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JENNIFER WASSON, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Virginia Cobb, District Associate Judge.

The defendant appeals the decision of the district court, which affirmed a decision of a magistrate, finding she was guilty of speeding.

Joseph G. Bertogli, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, Wayne M. Reisetter, County Attorney, and Brody Flint, Intern, for appellee.

Considered by Danilson, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Miller, S.J. [*]

MILLER, S.J.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

At about midnight on December 22, 2011, Sergeant Ryan Bowers of the Dallas County Sheriff's Office was driving east on a county road in an unmarked vehicle. After he passed a private road to a liquor establishment, Beach Girls, he saw a car turn onto the road behind him. After a short distance, the car made a U-turn and proceeded west on the road at a high rate of speed, going more than sixty miles per hour in a forty-five miles per hour zone. Sergeant Bowers turned around, and in an effort to catch up to the vehicle, reached speeds of 130 to 135 miles per hour. When he got close to the vehicle his radar indicated the vehicle was traveling at ninety-nine miles per hour in a fifty-five miles per hour zone.

Sergeant Bowers activated his lights and stopped the vehicle near Booneville, Iowa, in Dallas County. The driver was Jennifer Wasson. She stated she worked at Beach Girls as a dancer and had been speeding because she was afraid her ex-boyfriend or a customer was stalking her. Sergeant Bowers gave Wasson a citation for speeding, in violation of Iowa Code section 321.285 (2011), a simple misdemeanor.

Wasson requested a hearing, and a magistrate heard the case on April 4, 2012. Sergeant Bowers testified as outlined above. Wasson testified that when she saw headlights behind her she got scared. She stated, "So, you know, I sped up. I bet I probably did speed up to about 60, 65. And then I noticed they were getting closer and closer, and so I just went a lot faster and a lot faster, and they were coming closer, closer, closer." Wasson stated she thought someone was chasing her; "I was in fear for my life, and I was just trying to get to a safe place as fast as I could."

Wasson's attorney argued, "I think that the evidence here shows that there was an emergency and/or necessity defense that was established based upon the circumstances that Ms. Wasson reasonably believed that she was under some sort of a personal danger on that evening due to her occupation and profession." The magistrate found an emergency or necessity defense had not been established. The magistrate determined Wasson would be required to pay a fine of $362.

Wasson appealed, pursuant to Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.73(1). The district associate judge found, "Defendant attempts to latch a justification/self-defense claim to the doctrine of legal excuse. It simply doesn't fit." The judge went on to state, "This claim fails both factually and legally." The judge affirmed the decision of the magistrate.

Wasson sought discretionary review of the judge's decision. Iowa Code § 814.6(2)(d); Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.73(6). The Iowa Supreme Court granted the request for discretionary review. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.106(2); State v. Frazer, 402 N.W.2d 446, 447 (Iowa 1987) (noting the Iowa Supreme Court has the authority to grant ...


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