from the Iowa District Court for Floyd County, Peter B.
Newell, District Associate Judge.
John Myers appeals his conviction for operating while
intoxicated, first offense.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Charles City police officer stopped a vehicle for having
unilluminated taillights. He observed signs of intoxication
in driver Jeffrey John Myers. After administering field
sobriety tests, the officer arrested Myers for operating a
motor vehicle while under the influence. Myers consented to a
urine test, which screened positive for marijuana metabolites
State charged Myers with operating a motor vehicle while
intoxicated (first offense) in violation of Iowa Code section
321J.2(1)(a) and (c) (2016). Myers moved to suppress the
evidence on the ground that his taillights were actually
illuminated. He asserted the stop violated his constitutional
rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. See
State v. Pettijohn, 899 N.W.2d 1, 14 (Iowa 2017) (citing
the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution and Article I, section 8 of the Iowa
Constitution to be secure from "unreasonable searches
and seizures"). Following an evidentiary hearing, the
district court denied the motion.
stipulated to a bench trial on the minutes of testimony. The
district court found him guilty of "all the elements of
operating under the influence, first offense." In its
judgment and sentence, the court convicted Myers under Iowa
Code section 321J.2(1)(a) and (b), but oral comments during
the trial on the minutes of evidence clarified the conviction
was based on section 321J. (1)(a) and (c).
appeal, Myers contends (1) the district court should have
denied his motion to suppress evidence gained following the
stop and (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish the
presence of a controlled substance in his system.
a peace officer observes a traffic offense, however minor,
the officer has probable cause to stop the driver of the
vehicle." State v. Harrison, 846 N.W.2d 362,
365 (Iowa 2014) (quoting State v. Mitchell, 498
N.W.2d 691, 693 (Iowa 1993)). The police officer observed
Myers driving after dark with unilluminated taillights.
See Iowa Code § 321.387. He approached
Myers' vehicle and "explained he didn't have any
taillights." According to the officer, Myers "was
like, oh, and then reached down and turned them on."
When the officer was asked if "they [were] on to begin
with and then brightened, " he responded, "No, they
weren't on." The officer explained that on some
"newer cars, " "you actually have to adjust
camera video corroborated the officer's observation.
Although headlights of the law enforcement vehicle initially
obscured the visibility of Myers' taillights, the
taillights noticeably illuminated after the officer informed
Myers of the infraction. The illumination coincided with a
movement by Myers to the right. On our de novo review of this
constitutional issue, we agree with the district court that
the officer had probable cause to stop the vehicle. We affirm
the court's denial of Myers' suppression motion.