review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Joseph M.
Moothart (motion to suppress) and Nathan A. Callahan (trial),
District Associate Judges.
State seeks further review of a court of appeals decision
suppressing the State's evidence.
J. Viner of Viner Law Firm, P.C., Cedar Rapids, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, Brian Williams, County Attorney, and Molly
Tomsha, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
appeal involves a decision by the district court denying a
motorist's motion to suppress evidence obtained after an
officer stopped the motorist's vehicle for being on a
county access road after hours. At trial, the district court
convicted the motorist of possession of a controlled
substance in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5)
(2015). The motorist appealed, arguing the district court
erred in denying his motion to suppress. We transferred the
case to the court of appeals, which reversed the district
court's denial of the motorist's motion to suppress.
The State filed an application for further review.
further review, we disagree with the court of appeal's
reasoning, but we still find the officer did not have
probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop the
motorist's vehicle when it was on a county access road
after hours. We therefore vacate the decision of the court of
appeals, reverse the judgment of the district court, and
remand the case for a new trial.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
30, 2015, at approximately 12:37 a.m., Deputy Tim Peterson
with the Black Hawk County Sheriff's Department observed
a vehicle on Beaver Valley Road in the Falls Access area.
Falls Access is a county conservation property open to the
public for hunting and fishing. Beaver Valley Road is a
gravel road maintained by the county conservation board.
Deputy Peterson stopped the vehicle because he believed
Michael Scheffert, the driver, was committing a crime by
being in Falls Access after 10:30 p.m. Deputy Matthew Harris,
who assisted Deputy Peterson with the stop, testified the
hours in which the public may be in Falls Access is from 6
a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
stopping Scheffert's vehicle, Deputy Peterson obtained
Scheffert's consent to search the vehicle. During the
search, Deputy Peterson found a marijuana pipe with residue
and a prescription pill bottle that had a clear plastic bag
containing marijuana. Scheffert told Deputy Peterson the
marijuana belonged to him.
State charged Scheffert with possession of a controlled
substance (marijuana), second offense, in violation of Iowa
Code section 124.401(5). Scheffert moved to suppress the
evidence seized from the vehicle, contending the stop and
search violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States
Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa
hearing on the motion to suppress, Scheffert argued Deputy
Peterson lacked either probable cause or reasonable suspicion
to justify the stop. The thrust of Scheffert's argument
at the hearing was that officials should have posted a sign
displaying the park's hours in order to make his presence
in Falls Access after hours illegal. Deputy Harris testified
there had been signage to identify Falls Access at the
intersection of Beaver Valley Road and North Union Road in
the past, but it never had park hours posted on it. Deputy
Harris did not recall whether there was a sign posted on May
30, the night of the stop. According to his conversation with
a Black Hawk County conservation officer, there was not a
sign posted on the day of the hearing on the motion to
suppress. There was no other evidence of signs regarding the
Beaver Valley Road in the Falls Access area.
State argued Deputy Peterson had probable cause to initiate a
traffic stop because Scheffert was in a county park after
hours. The State relied on Deputy Harris's testimony that
the park closes at 10:30 p.m. The State also relied on
sections 461A.46 and 350.5 of the Iowa Code to establish Deputy
Peterson had probable cause to stop Scheffert. The State
The signage on the night in question is irrelevant. It
doesn't matter whether or not the sign was posted that
night, and [the State was] not aware of any authority that
requires a sign to be posted. The fact is that [Scheffert]
was there after hours.
district court denied Scheffert's motion to suppress.
After a trial on the minutes of testimony, the district court
convicted Scheffert of possession of a controlled substance
(marijuana), second offense. Scheffert appealed, arguing the
district court erred in failing to suppress the evidence. We
transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of
appeals reversed the denial of Scheffert's motion to
suppress. The State sought further review, which we granted.
consider whether the stop of Scheffert's vehicle was
contrary to the protections of the Fourth Amendment of the
United States Constitution or ...