from the Iowa District Court for Story County, James B.
Malloy, District Associate Judge.
defendant appeals his conviction for operating while
intoxicated, claiming the district court erred in denying his
motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless
Matthew T. Lindholm of Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm,
P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin R. Cmelik, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
appeal presents the question whether the community-caretaking
doctrine justified the initial seizure of a motorist parked
on the shoulder of a rural Iowa highway. Terry Coffman
challenges his conviction for operating while intoxicated
(OWI), first offense. He claims the district court erred in
denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained in violation
of constitutional protections against unreasonable searches
and seizures. Because the record reveals a good-faith effort
by a peace officer to assist the motorist as a public servant
rather than to launch a criminal investigation, we affirm.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
on late-night patrol, Story County Sheriff's Deputy Nick
Hochberger noticed a car parked on the side of a rural
highway outside of Slater. Deputy Hochberger testified he
routinely patrols the area and was drawn to the car because
it was stopped on the shoulder of the dark roadway, just
after 1:00 a.m., with its brake lights engaged. Deputy
Hochberger turned on the flashing red and blue lights of his
patrol car as he pulled behind the parked vehicle. The deputy
testified he was checking on "the welfare of the people
in the vehicle." Hochberger approached the driver's
window and asked the occupants: "Hi guys, everything
okay tonight?" The driver, later identified as Terry
Coffman, replied: "Yeah." Coffman's wife, who
was in the passenger seat, piped in: "We're
fine." The deputy continued the conversation:
"Pulled over to the side of the road, what's going
on?" Coffman told the deputy his wife was "having a
neck issue" and he was "trying to do a massage or
deputy "detected the odor of an alcoholic beverage when
the defendant spoke, " according to the findings of fact
reached by the district court when ruling on Coffman's
guilt. The court further found Coffman "had red and
watery eyes" and admitted consuming four beers that
night, the last drink within thirty minutes of the stop. The
court also noted Hochberger gave Coffman three field sobriety
tests, all of which he failed. The deputy invoked implied
consent, but Coffman refused to provide a breath sample.
State charged Coffman with first-offense OWI, in violation of
Iowa Code section 321J.2 (2016). Coffman filed a motion to
suppress evidence obtained during the seizure of his car,
alleging violations of the Fourth Amendment of the United
States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa
Constitution. The State argued the deputy's actions were
justified under the community-caretaking exception to the
constitutional protections against unreasonable search and
seizure. Following a hearing, the district court denied
Coffman's motion to suppress. Coffman waived his right to
a jury trial and stipulated to a bench trial. The court found
Coffman guilty of first-offense OWI and sentenced him to two
days in jail.
now appeals and claims the community-caretaking exception did
not justify the seizure of his vehicle.
Scope and Standard of Review
controversy arises from an alleged violation of a
constitutional right, making our review de novo."
State v. Tague, 676 N.W.2d 197, 201 (Iowa 2004). The
court "make[s] an independent evaluation of the totality
of the circumstances as shown by the entire ...