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State v. Knight

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 5, 2014

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JACKIE DEAN KNIGHT, Defendant-Appellant,

Page 274

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Webster County, Thomas J. Bice, Judge. A defendant appeals his convictions for drug and tax stamp offenses, operating while intoxicated, and escape.

Alfredo Parrish and Eric Parrish of Parrish, Kruidenier, Dunn, Boles, Gribble, Gentry & Fischer, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, Ricki L. Osborn, County Attorney, and Jennifer Bonzer, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.


Page 275


Jackie Dean Knight challenges the traffic stop that resulted in his six convictions, arguing the peace officer had neither probable cause nor reasonable suspicion to stop him when he had a valid temporary registration. He also renews his chain-of-custody objection to three drug exhibits offered by the State.

Because the stop resulted from a reasonable mistake of fact, the officer did not violate Knight's constitutional rights. In regard to the exhibits, we find no abuse of discretion in the district court's ruling that any discrepancies in the descriptions or measurements of the drugs affected the weight they should be given by the jury and not their admissibility.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

At 3:45 a.m. on October 21, 2011, Webster County Deputy Sheriff Joshua Van Waes saw a 2003 red Buick Rendezvous stopped at a stop sign in Fort Dodge. Because the Buick had neither a front nor a rear license plate, the officer turned on his emergency lights and followed the car into an alley. Both the driver, who was later identified as Jackie Knight, and his passenger got out of their vehicle and began walking toward the squad car with their arms raised. Van Waes told them to get back in the vehicle.

Because the alley was not well lit, for his safety the deputy trained his squad car's spotlight on the Buick. As Van Waes approached the vehicle, he noticed a white piece of paper behind the darkly tinted rear window that " could possibly be a temporary registration tag or something along those lines." The deputy had not seen the sticker until he illuminated the window and moved closer to the Buick.

Page 276

Van Waes continued to the driver's window and talked to Knight about why he had stopped him. During that conversation Van Waes detected the odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle and saw that Knight's eyes were bloodshot and watery. Van Waes asked Knight to get out of the vehicle and was able to confirm the smell of alcohol. At that point, the deputy also noticed Knight's speech was slurred. Knight eventually admitted he had been drinking but recalled having only two Bud Light beers. Knight then took the field sobriety tests; his performance indicated impairment.

When the deputy told Knight he was under arrest for operating while intoxicated (OWI), Knight sprinted away. The deputy chased him on foot, yelling: " Stop or you'll be tased." When Knight did not stop, the deputy " drew [his] Taser and activated it." The electrical current deflected off Knight's heavy winter coat but did not incapacitate Knight. Instead, Knight tripped on a curb, and Van Waes tackled him to the ground. When Knight reached for his left waistband, a second deputy on the scene " tased" him. Knight screamed: " I give up."

After placing Knight in handcuffs, Van Waes searched him, finding two plastic baggies of " a white powdery substance" in his left jeans pocket. In the right front pocket of Knight's coat, the deputy found another baggie--this one containing " a green leafy substance." The deputy found " a whole bunch of cash" wedged into Knight's right jean pocket. In another pocket the deputy found a " neon green" plastic container with a screw-on lid that held " another brown kind of rock-like substance that [the deputy] was unfamiliar with."

On December 2, 2011, the State charged Knight with the following six criminal counts: (1) possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(c)(2)(b) (2011); (2) a drug tax stamp violation under sections 453B.1, 453B.3, and 453B.12; (3) possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, in violation of section 124.401(1)(d); (4) OWI, in violation of section 321J.2; (5) escape, in violation of section 719.4(2); and (6) possession of cocaine base with intent to deliver, in violation of section 124.401(1)(c)(3). The drug-related charges all carried the habitual felon enhancement under sections 902.8 and 902.9.

On February 10, 2012, Knight filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop, arguing it was an illegal seizure. Following a March 16, 2012 suppression hearing, the district court denied the motion on March 28, 2012. Knight then sought an interlocutory appeal, which our supreme court denied.

On October 16, 2012, a jury trial commenced. On October 19, 2012, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all counts. On January 11, 2013, the district court sentenced Knight to fifteen years in prison with a minimum one-third on counts one and six, and a three-year minimum on counts two and three. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Knight now appeals, alleging the deputy's stop was an unreasonable seizure and challenging the district court's admission of three exhibits.

II. Scope and Standards of Review

We review suppression rulings based on constitutional arguments de novo. State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, 771 (Iowa 2011).

We review the admission of evidence over a chain of custody objection for an abuse of discretion. State v. Biddle, 652 ...

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