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State v. McFadden

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHNNY LEE MCFADDEN, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Mary Pat Gunderson, Judge.

         Johnny McFadden appeals his conviction of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Les M. Blair III of Blair & Fitzsimmons, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Johnny McFadden appeals his conviction for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to deliver. He argues the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence gained in a stop of his vehicle and search of a backpack inside the vehicle.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The pertinent facts may be gleaned from the suppression transcript, a police dash-camera recording of the traffic stop, and audio clips captured on an officer's body microphone. Those facts are as follows.

         A "summer enforcement team" with the Des Moines Police Department followed a vehicle through several turns and stopped it in the driveway of a house for having "a film on the license plate" that "kind of interfered with [his] headlights and created a glare, " rendering one of the letters "on the license plate . . . not clearly legible." An officer "[m]ade contact with the driver, Johnny McFadden, and asked for his driver's license, registration, and insurance." He observed two adult men inside and "a backpack wedged between the front seat passenger seat." The officer found the presence of the backpack "odd" because there were no children in the car. He wanted "to learn what was inside the backpack." The officer returned to his vehicle and performed a license and registration check. During his conversation with one of the other officers, he mentioned the backpack between the "two grown men" and wryly said he thought they had "been out of school for a while." The officer completed the record checks, which revealed that McFadden had a valid license and no outstanding warrants.

          The officer returned to the vehicle McFadden was driving. His body microphone was off and the driver's side of the vehicle was out of view of the dash camera. According to the officer's testimony at the suppression hearing, he "asked [McFadden] for consent to look inside the backpack or asked him what was inside the backpack." McFadden "denied [him] consent." The officer characterized McFadden as "very nervous, " with "the artery on the left side of his neck . . . pulsating, " a sharp contrast to his "calm, cool, and collected" demeanor up to that point. He found this change in his demeanor "suspicious." At this point, the officer's partner jokingly chimed in, "[U]nless it contains a heater or a pound of drugs, you won't have anything to worry about." McFadden responded that the backpack contained six pounds of marijuana.

         The officers removed McFadden from the vehicle, handcuffed him, and searched the vehicle and backpack. They discovered "six tightly compressed bricks of marijuana" in the backpack.

         The State charged McFadden with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to deliver. See Iowa Code § 124.401(1)(d) (2015).[1]

         McFadden filed a motion to suppress the evidence. Following the suppression hearing, ...


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