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State v. See

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 19, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHANNON SEE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal 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).

         Shannon 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.

          Erin M. Carr of Carr & Wright, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin R. Cmelik and Kristin A. Guddall (until withdrawal), Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Shannon 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.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On 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.

         The 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.

         An 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.

         The 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.

         The 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 section 124.401(5).

         See 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 warrant ...


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