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State v. Brooks

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOEL BROOKS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William A. Price, District Associate Judge.

         Joel Brooks appeals from his conviction for possession of a controlled substance challenging the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

          Alexander Smith of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Joel Brooks appeals from his conviction for possession of a controlled substance, second offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2015). He contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because there was no probable cause to support the stop of his car. Specifically, Brooks argues the officer lacked probable cause to believe that he changed lanes without first ascertaining "that such movement could be made with safety, " in violation of section 321.306(1). The evidence supports the officer's observation of the traffic infraction. We therefore affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On July 24, 2015, at around 2:00 a.m., Des Moines Police Officer Michael Dixson was traveling south on Keosauqua Way while on traffic patrol. The officer observed Brooks's car merge onto southbound Keosauqua Way from the University Avenue ramp. Without signaling as it changed lanes, and in one continuous motion, the car drifted from the entrance ramp across the right southbound lane and into the left southbound lane directly in front of Officer Dixson's marked squad car. The officer slowed to avoid rear-ending Brooks's car.

         Officer Dixson activated his squad car's flashing lights, and Brooks eventually stopped. The event was video recorded by the officer's dash-cam recorder. As a result of the encounter, Brooks was arrested and charged by trial information with the aggravated misdemeanor of possession of a controlled substance, second offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5), and the serious misdemeanor of operating while intoxicated (OWI), first offense, in violation of section 321J.2. Brooks was also issued a traffic citation for improper lane change.

         Arguing Officer Dixson had no probable cause to stop his car, Brooks moved to suppress all evidence, including subsequent searches, the statements he made, and all other evidence collected or observed after the initiation of the traffic stop. The State resisted, and after hearing the testimony of Officer Dixson and viewing the dash-cam video, the district court denied the motion. Brooks then waived his right to a jury trial and stipulated to a trial on the minutes of testimony on the charge of possession of a controlled substance. The court found Brooks guilty of possession of a controlled substance.[1] Brooks appeals, challenging the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         Because Brooks's challenge to the district court's denial of his motion to suppress implicates his constitutional rights, our review is de novo. See State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, 771 (Iowa 2011). We independently evaluate the totality of the circumstances as shown by the entire record. See id. While we give deference to the district court's fact findings given its opportunity to view the witnesses and evaluate their credibility, we are not bound by them. See id.

         III. ...


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