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State v. McIver

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 9, 2015

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
CARRIE McIVER, Appellant

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, James D. Birkenholz, Judge. Appellant challenges the rulings by the district court to deny her motions to suppress.

Brandon J. Brown of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble & Gentry, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Jean C. Pettinger, Assistant Attorney General, Joseph Williams, Student Legal Intern, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Maurice W.B. Curry, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

CADY, Chief Justice. All justices concur except Wiggins, Hecht, and Zager, JJ., who concur inpart and dissent in part. WIGGINS, Justice (concurring in part and dissenting in part).


Page 700

CADY, Chief Justice.

In this appeal from a judgment and sentence entered by the district court against a motorist for operating while intoxicated, first offense, we must first decide if the peace officer made a valid stop under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. If the stop was valid, we must then decide if a peace officer is required to offer a blood or urine test instead of a breath test to a motorist reasonably suspected of driving under the influence of a controlled substance or a drug other than alcohol. We find the stop was valid. We also conclude our legislature did not intend for the implied consent law to mandate a blood or urine test under such circumstances, but only intended to impose the implied consent penalty of license revocation for motorists suspected of driving under the influence of drugs other than alcohol who refuse to submit to a blood or urine test when requested by a peace officer. We conclude the district court properly overruled the pretrial motions to suppress the evidence, and we affirm the judgment and sentence of the district court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In the early morning hours of October 14, 2012, an experienced Polk County Sheriff's sergeant observed a pickup truck stopped in a parking lot of an eastside Des Moines business located on Northeast 14th Street. The parking lot was located in

Page 701

front of the building and was separated from the road by an area of grass and a sidewalk that ran parallel to the street. The entrance and exit to the parking lot was located on an adjacent side street. The headlights of the pickup truck were illuminated, and the business was closed.

As the sergeant positioned his squad car to investigate, the pickup truck was driven from the parking lot onto Northeast 14th Street by traveling over the grassy area, down the sidewalk for a brief period of time, and then over the curb of the street. The sergeant followed the pickup truck in his squad car and initiated a traffic stop after further observing the pickup truck weaving within its lane of travel. As it pulled over, the right side of the pickup went over the curb of the street.

During the stop, the sergeant discovered the pickup was driven by Carrie McIver. Her speech was slurred, and she was slow to respond to the sergeant's request for information. There were three passengers in the pickup, including McIver's husband.

The sergeant had McIver perform a variety of field sobriety tests. She failed most of the tests, but the sergeant did not detect any odor of an alcoholic beverage on her breath. He also attempted to administer several preliminary breath tests, but was unable to obtain a reading. The sergeant felt McIver was attempting to manipulate the test. She eventually refused further preliminary testing. The sergeant arrested McIver for improper use of lanes in violation of Iowa Code section 321.306 (2013).[1] She was transported to the Polk County Jail for processing by a Polk County deputy.

At the jail, the transporting deputy invoked the implied consent law and requested McIver submit to a breath test. She refused and requested a blood test be performed instead. McIver informed the deputy she wanted a blood test because she was taking prescription medication, including a central nervous system depressant. She denied that she had been drinking alcoholic beverages, although the deputy detected a slight odor of alcohol emanating from McIver. The deputy informed McIver that she could obtain a blood test after submitting to a breath test. She continued to refuse a breath test and insisted on a blood test. The deputy continued to insist on a breath test. As a result, no test was administered. Three prescription bottles were found in McIver's purse, including the prescription for a central nervous system depressant.

McIver was subsequently charged with operating while intoxicated, first offense. She moved to suppress the evidence against her, claiming the stop was made without probable cause or reasonable suspicion in violation of the United States and Iowa Constitutions. She also claimed the implied consent statute was violated when the deputy failed to administer a blood test after acquiring reasonable grounds to believe she was impaired by a prescription drug.

The district court denied the motions to suppress. McIver then waived her right to a trial by jury and stipulated to a trial on the minutes of testimony. The district court found McIver guilty of operating while intoxicated, first offense, and sentence was imposed.

McIver appealed. She claims on appeal that the district court erred in failing to suppress the evidence against her because there was no reasonable suspicion for the stop and the implied consent law was violated when the officer failed to request a blood or urine test.

Page 702

II. Standard of Review.

We review constitutional issues de novo. State v. Baldon, 829 N.W.2d 785, 789 (Iowa 2013). Our review of issues involving interpretation of a statute is for correction of errors at law. State v. Lukins, 846 N.W.2d 902, 906 (Iowa 2014).

III. Validity of Stop.

McIver asserts the stop of the vehicle she was driving violated her right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. We follow an independent approach in the application of our state constitution. State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, 771 (Iowa 2011). However, when a party does not argue an independent approach, " we ordinarily apply the substantive federal standards but reserve the right to apply the standard in a fashion different from federal precedent." State v. Tyler, 830 N.W.2d 288, 291-92 (Iowa 2013). McIver does not articulate any distinction in the scope and effect of the two constitutional provisions. Therefore, we consider the constitutional provisions separately, but proceed to apply them in the same manner for the purpose of resolving the claim in this case.

A traffic stop is permissible under our Iowa and Federal Constitutions when supported by probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime. Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654-55, 99 S.Ct. 1391, 1396-97, 59 L.Ed.2d 660, 667-68 (1979); Pals, 805 N.W.2d at 774; State v. Tague, 676 N.W.2d 197, 201, 204 (Iowa 2004). Probable cause of a crime supports an arrest, while reasonable suspicion of a crime allows a peace officer to stop and briefly detain a person to conduct a further investigation. See Tague, 676 N.W.2d at 201, 204. When a peace officer observes any type of traffic offense, the violation establishes both probable cause to stop the vehicle and reasonable suspicion to investigate. State v. Harrison, 846 N.W.2d 362, 365 (Iowa 2014).

McIver argues that the manner in which she drove her vehicle did not support probable cause to believe she violated a rule of the road. The State suggests a variety of statutes governing the operation of motor vehicles in this state were violated by her operation of the pickup truck. We find it unnecessary to decide whether the officer actually observed a violation of a rule of the road. Instead, we conclude the officer had reasonable suspicion of intoxicated driving to stop the vehicle and investigate.

Reasonable suspicion to stop a vehicle for investigative purposes exists when articulable facts and all the circumstances confronting the officer at the time give rise to a reasonable belief that criminal activity may be afoot. Tague, 676 N.W.2d at 204; see also State v. Kooima, 833 N.W.2d 202, 206 (Iowa 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1934, 188 L.Ed.2d 959 (2014). Thus, we do not evaluate reasonable suspicion based on each circumstance individually, but determine the existence of reasonable suspicion by considering all the circumstances together. See United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 273, 122 S.Ct. 744, 750, 151 L.Ed.2d 740, 749-50 (2002); State v. Kreps, 650 N.W.2d 636, 642 (Iowa 2002).

In this case, the stop occurred shortly after the bars in the city had closed for the night. The experienced arresting officer testified it was not uncommon for vehicles during this time period to pull off the road and stop to allow intoxicated occupants to urinate outside the vehicle. Here, the vehicle was stopped in the parking lot of a business that was closed. While these circumstances alone would be insufficient to

Page 703

support reasonable suspicion, they were relevant considerations. See State v. Haviland, 532 N.W.2d 767, 768-69 (Iowa 1995) (per curiam) (holding a vehicle stopped near a closed business only creates an inchoate suspicion). The manner in which the vehicle was operated when it left the parking lot was an additional circumstance to consider. Instead of leaving the parking lot through the exit to the street, the vehicle was driven by McIver over the grassy area surrounding the parking lot, down the sidewalk, and over the curb. This aberrant driving raised suspicion of impairment. See Shellady v. Sellers, 208 N.W.2d 12, 14 (Iowa 1973) (finding erratic driving supports an investigative stop). Finally, McIver weaved within her lane of travel while she was followed by the officer. This circumstance alone does ...

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