January 11, 2017
STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
DOUGLAS LEE CUNNINGHAM, Defendant-Appellant.
from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Virginia
Cobb, District Associate Judge.
Cunningham appeals the district court's denial of his
motion to suppress. AFFIRMED.
J. Rothman of McEnroe, Gotsdiner, Brewer, Steinbach &
Rothman, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower,
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
approximately 8:30 p.m. one evening, a DEA (Drug Enforcement
Administration) traffic force officer assigned to a West Des
Moines case received a report of a hit-and-run accident
"about five blocks" away from him. The dispatcher
described the fleeing vehicle as "a silver Cadillac with
a white male driver" headed towards Jordan Creek
Parkway. The officer drove towards Jordan Creek Parkway. As
he was turning onto the parkway, he saw several vehicles.
Only one was light-colored. The officer stopped the vehicle.
After making the stop, he realized the car was a Buick rather
than a Cadillac and was gold rather than silver.
officer arrested Cunningham for operating a motor vehicle
while intoxicated. The State subsequently charged him with
OWI (first offense). See Iowa Code § 321J.2
(2015). Cunningham moved to suppress the evidence gained in
connection with the vehicle stop. He asserted "[a]t the
time of the stop the officer had no basis to stop [the]
vehicle." The district court denied the motion.
Cunningham waived his right to a jury trial, and the district
court found him guilty on the stipulated minutes of
testimony. This appeal followed.
contends his vehicle was stopped in violation of the federal
and state constitutions, which protect citizens against
unreasonable searches and seizures. U.S. Const. amend IV;
Iowa Const., art. I, § 8. He acknowledges the officer
could stop the vehicle if there existed "reasonable
suspicion of criminal activity." See Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 21 (1968); State v. Pals, 805
N.W.2d 767, 774 (Iowa 2011). But, in his view, "there
are just too many mismatches to support a finding that [the
officer] had more than a hunch that [his] vehicle was
involved in a hit-and-run accident."
de novo review of this constitutional issue, we disagree. As
the district court stated,
Based on the fact that the vehicle fit the general
description of the vehicle described by dispatch and the
proximity of the vehicle to the location of the accident and
the time of the accident, and there was no other vehicle in
the area that matched the description, the officer stopped
the vehicle to investigate.
. . . .
[T]he officer had the following factors: (1) there was a
specific crime; (2) the perpetration of the crime was very
close in time and location to the stop; (3) the vehicle he
stopped was reasonably consistent with the description he had
been given of the vehicle involved in the crime; and (4)
there were no other vehicles in the immediate area that met
concur in this analysis. Although darkness prevented the
officer from distinguishing silver from gold or the make of
the vehicle, the officer correctly identified the gender and
race of the driver and stopped the only
"light-colored" vehicle in the vicinity within
minutes of receiving the dispatch. See State v.
Knight, 853 N.W.2d 273, 277 (Iowa Ct. App. 2014)
(stating "a mistake of fact may justify a traffic
stop."). We conclude the officer had reasonable
suspicion to stop the vehicle and the district court
appropriately denied Cunningham's motion to suppress.