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State v. Loots

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 19, 2014

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LAURA E. LOOTS, Defendant-Appellant

Editorial Note:

This opinion is subject to modification or correction by the court and is not final until the time for rehearing or further review has passed.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Michael G. Dieterich, District Associate Judge. Laura Loots appeals the district court ruling denying her motion to suppress evidence discovered as a result of a traffic stop.

William Monroe, Burlington, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Jean Pettinger, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County Attorney, and Justin Stonebrook, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

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

OPINION

BOWER, J.

Laura Loots appeals the district court ruling denying her motion to suppress evidence discovered as a result of a traffic stop. Loots claims the record fails to show there was reasonable suspicion she was committing a crime when stopped for violating a local noise ordinance. We find the ordinance requires proof of two separate elements: that the sound be heard fifty feet from the motor vehicle, and create a noise disturbance. The record does not contain facts upon which we could objectively conclude there was a noise disturbance. Accordingly, there was no justification for the stop. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Late in the evening of April 28, 2012, Burlington Police Officer Ryan Smith (Smith) was parked in a parking lot talking with two reserve sheriff deputies when he heard a loud sound approach. Identifying the sound as coming from a vehicle, later found to be operated by defendant Laura Loots (Loots), Smith conducted a traffic stop for violation of a local noise ordinance. Upon reaching Loots's vehicle, Smith smelled " an intoxicating beverage and marijuana" coming from inside. Marijuana was discovered as the result of a search of the vehicle. Loots was given a citation for violating the noise ordinance and later charged with possession of a controlled substance.

Loots filed a motion to suppress claiming the vehicle stop was an unconstitutional seizure. During the suppression hearing, Smith testified he stopped Loots because he could hear the music coming from her car from more than fifty feet away.[1] No other reason for the stop was given. Loots's attorney argued the Burlington City Code of Ordinances prohibits noise disturbances heard from more than fifty feet from the vehicle and further defines a noise disturbance as, in relevant part, a sound that annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities. Arguing the officers had not testified as to any annoyance or disturbance, but only that the sound could be heard from more than fifty feet away, Loots's attorney asked the court to suppress the evidence located during the search. In response, the district court replied, " Well, the officers testified they could hear this noise more than fifty feet away. I'm assuming that it annoyed the officer when he made the stop." Overruling the motion to suppress, the court also pointed out Loots did not deny the officers allegation.

Loots waived her right to a jury trial and was convicted in a trial on the minutes of testimony. She was sentenced to thirty days in jail with all but two days suspended, a $250 fine, surcharge, court costs and a 180-day driver's license revocation.

II. Standard of Review

Constitutional challenges are reviewed de novo. State v. Kern, 831 N.W.2d 149, 164 (Iowa 2013). We independently evaluate the totality of the circumstances based upon the entire record. Id. Deference is given to findings of fact made by the district court, but we ...


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