from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Nathan A.
Callahan, District Associate Judge.
defendant appeals his conviction asserting the district court
should have granted his motion to suppress evidence.
Charles Isaacson of Charles Isaacson Law, P.C., Des Moines,
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Scott, S.J.
Gray appeals his conviction for possession of a controlled
substance, second offense, in violation of Iowa Code section
124.401(5) (2015). He asserts on appeal the district court
erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized
as a result of an inventory search of his vehicle. It is his
contention the officers used the inventory search solely to
investigate criminal activity after he refused to give
consent to search.
well-recognized exception to the warrant requirement is the
vehicle inventory search. See State v. Huisman, 544
N.W.2d 433, 436 (Iowa 1996). "The legality of an
inventory search depends on two overlapping inquiries: the
validity of the impoundment and the scope of the
inventory." Id. Gray only attacks the validity
of the impoundment. In addressing the validity of the
impoundment, "we no longer examine the reasonableness of
the officer's decision to impound; we look for the
existence of reasonable standardized procedures and a purpose
other than the investigation of criminal activity."
Id. at 437. "To decide whether the officers
were motivated solely by an investigatory purpose, we examine
whether, when viewed objectively, an administrative reason
for the impoundment existed." Id. at 439.
"We do not analyze the subjective motivations of the
officers." Id. at 440.
ruling on Gray's motion, the district court correctly
The court was presented with the written policy of the Black
Hawk County Sheriff's Office regarding impoundment and
inventory. All three versions of the policy presented to the
court explicitly provide a vehicle involved in an arrest or
other official police action will be towed if the arrested
person was the sole occupant. The policy further indicates
the deputy requesting the vehicle be towed for impoundment
shall see the vehicle is inventoried. The policy provides no
explicit requirement for officers to afford drivers an
accommodation or allow drivers to contact another licensed
driver to remove the vehicle from the scene. The Black Hawk
County policy, on the other hand, provides any vehicle not
towed due to "extenuating circumstances" needs to
be approved by a supervisor.
Although the policy says nothing about non-arrest
impoundments, Iowa Code section 321.20B allows a peace
officer to "[i]ssue a citation, remove the motor
vehicle's license plates and registration receipt, and
impound the motor vehicle" if a driver of a motor
vehicle registered in this state is unable to provide proof
of financial liability coverage. See Iowa Code
§ 321.20B(4)(a)(4)(a). Gray has not challenged the
constitutionality of this statute nor the sheriff
department's compliance with the impoundment procedures
under the statute. Gray also has not challenged the sheriff
department's impoundment policy. When viewed objectively,
as the law requires, the court finds the officers were
allowed to impound Gray's vehicle.
. . . .
The court in no way condones the officers' activity. The
record clearly reflects the officers impounded and
inventoried Gray's vehicle upon learning of Gray's
prior drug conviction and unwillingness to consent to a
search. Before Gray refused to consent to a search, the
officers indicated they may allow someone to pick up the
vehicle for Gray and not tow the vehicle. Once it became
clear Gray would not consent to the search of his vehicle,
apparently on the advice of counsel, the officers decided to
impound the vehicle. It appears the officers used [the]
impound and inventory process to simply bypass Gray's
unwillingness to consent to the search. The court notes Iowa
Code section 321.20B, regarding driving without liability
coverage, permits a peace officer to issue a warning, issue a
citation, issue a citation and remove the vehicle's
license plates and registration, or issue a citation and
impound the vehicle. Here, the officers issued a citation,
impounded and searched the vehicle for inventory purposes to
quell their suspicions Gray was "hiding something."
The established case law is clear that unless the inventory
search is conducted for the sole purpose of investigation,
which the court is unable to find it was, the officer's
investigatory motive does not invalidate an inventory search.
Accordingly, the ...