from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Joseph M.
Moothart, District Associate Judge (motion to suppress), and
Joel A. Dalrymple, Judge (trial and sentencing).
See appeals her convictions and sentences for possession of a
prescription drug and possession of a controlled substance,
following a trial on the minutes. REVERSED AND REMANDED.
M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin R. Cmelik and Kristin
A. Guddall (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General,
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
See appeals her convictions and sentences following a trial
on the minutes of testimony for one count of possession of a
prescription drug and one count of possession of a controlled
substance, both serious misdemeanors. See claims the district
court erred in denying her motion to suppress. Upon our
review, we reverse See's convictions and remand for new
trial on the basis the motion to suppress should have been
granted because there was no probable cause to search
See's vehicle. We find this issue dispositive and do not
reach See's other claims.
Background Facts and Proceedings
February 17, 2015, at about 2:45 a.m., an officer with the
Waterloo Police Department was dispatched to a local gas
station after receiving a report from the gas station clerk
of a suspicious occupied vehicle that had been parked in
front of the store at the gas pump for approximately thirty
minutes. An officer arrived at the scene, pulled in directly
behind the vehicle, and activated the patrol car's lights
before approaching See's vehicle. The officer observed
See in the driver's seat, Trivino Clark in the front
passenger seat, and an infant in the back seat. The officer
informed See and Clark that a gas station employee had called
the police about a suspicious vehicle that had been there for
an extended period of time and asked them why they were
parked there. See replied they had been parked there because
"[Clark] had to go get money for gas." The officer
then asked for both See's and Clark's identification.
After running their identifications back in his car, the
officer learned Clark had an outstanding warrant for his
arrest for failure to appear. Two additional officers then
arrived at the scene.
first officer returned to See's vehicle, informed Clark
there was a warrant for his arrest, and placed Clark under
arrest without incident. The officer conducted a search of
Clark's person outside of the vehicle incident to his
arrest and found a glass pipe containing marijuana residue
and ash in Clark's jacket pocket. An officer then
escorted Clark to the back of a patrol car. The officer later
testified at the suppression hearing that he could smell
marijuana and alcohol emanating from Clark. The officer did
not smell marijuana coming from the vehicle or any of its
passengers while they were in the vehicle. The officer also
testified he could not recall whether the pipe found in
Clark's pocket was warm or cold.
officer informed See they had found a marijuana pipe on Clark
and needed to search her vehicle. See initially refused to
get out of the car but eventually agreed to the officers'
demands after she was told she could be arrested if she did
not comply. An officer observed an orange and white pill
bottle in the front pocket of See's hoodie as she exited
the vehicle. See attempted to take her purse out of the car
with her, but an officer told her to leave it; See complied.
One officer searched the vehicle while another officer asked
See to empty her pockets. See did not remove the pill bottle
from her pocket or acknowledge that she had it, stating she
only had money and cigarettes with her.
officer searching the vehicle indicated he had found
marijuana in See's purse, and she was placed under
arrest. After she was handcuffed, an officer searched her
person and found the unmarked pill bottle, which contained
several different types of prescription pills, a plastic bag
with a glass pipe and two different types of pills, and a
pipe wrapped in tissue containing methamphetamine residue.
See claimed she had a prescription for one of the pills in
the bottle. The officers also found a bag in See's car
containing a digital scale and marijuana.
State filed a trial information charging See with one count
of possession of a prescription drug, in violation of Iowa
Code section 155A.21 (2015), and one count of possession of a
controlled substance, methamphetamine, in violation of
filed a motion to suppress challenging both the detention of
her vehicle and the subsequent searches and seizure of her
person and vehicle under both the Fourth Amendment of the
U.S. Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa
Constitution. The district court denied See's motion,
concluding the seizure of See's person and her vehicle
was justified under the community caretaking exception to the