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State v. Schlichting

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RONALD DEAN SCHLICHTING, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         Defendant appeals the district court's order denying his motion to suppress evidence. AFFIRMED

          David R. Johnson of Brinton, Bordwell & Johnson, Clarion, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Benjamin M. Parrott, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         Ronald Schlichting appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated. He alleges the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the officer did not have probable cause to stop the vehicle. Because Schlichting violated a traffic law, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On June 3, 2015, Trooper Jared Rude was on duty when he stopped to fill up his patrol car with gas at the Traer Short Stop in Traer, Iowa. As he walked into the store to pay for the gas, the store clerk came out to inform Rude that an intoxicated customer was leaving in a truck. The officer asked the clerk to identify the suspect, and she pointed to a red Chevy Colorado truck leaving the parking lot, being driven by Schlichting. The officer returned to his patrol car and began following the truck.

         The officer followed Schlichting for a short distance without incident. Schlichting then approached a two-way stop sign. The officer testified that while Schlichting was stopped at the intersection, he did not have a turn signal on. After a white vehicle passed through the intersection, Schlichting made a left turn without using his signal. Rude was approximately 150 to 200 feet behind Schlichting's car at the time of the turn, and Rude stated he could see the car's taillights clearly. Based on Schlichting's failure to use his turn signal, Rude initiated a traffic stop. During the stop, he observed Schlichting's bloodshot, watery eyes and the smell of alcohol. Schlichting then admitted to consuming alcohol that day, and Rude arrested Schlichting after he failed a field-sobriety test. Schlichting's breath sample revealed a blood-alcohol content of .161 percent.

         On June 25, Schlichting was charged with operating while intoxicated, first offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2 (2015). Schlichting filed a motion to suppress evidence, claiming the stop violated the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Rude and the clerk testified at the hearing. The district court determined, "[T]he trooper was credible when he indicated that he did not see a turn signal on the defendant's vehicle when he made a left-hand turn at the intersection of Third Street and Walnut Street." The court denied Schlichting's motion to suppress because (1) the officer had reasonable suspicion based on the increased reliability of a citizen's tip; and (2) the turn was illegal, which created probable cause for Rude to stop the vehicle. Regarding the illegality of the turn, the court stated:

[T]he trooper was at most one-half of a block behind the defendant's vehicle before the defendant commenced his left turn. Therefore, the defendant's lack of signaling in this case could have affected the trooper's vehicle. . . . [T]he State has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the trooper had reasonable cause to stop the defendant's vehicle for a violation of Iowa Code section 321.314.

         Schlichting waived his right to a jury trial, and the court held a trial on the minutes of evidence. The court ...


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