United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO SUPPRESS
Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge
matter comes before me pursuant to defendant's motion to
suppress evidence allegedly seized in violation of the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 19). The
grand jury charged defendant in a one-count indictment of
being in possession of a firearm as a felon in violation of
Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(g)(1) and
924(a)(2). (Doc. 2). The charge arose from evidence found
during the execution of a traffic stop on October 20, 2017.
Defendant argues the Court should suppress this evidence
because the officer who stopped defendant lacked any
reasonable suspicion that defendant was in violation of Iowa
law. (Doc. 19-1, at 2).
Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief United States District
Court Judge, referred this motion to me for a Report and
Recommendation. On February 23, 2018, I held an evidentiary
hearing on defendant's motion at which Waterloo Police
Officer Andrew Tindall testified. I admitted into evidence
government's Exhibit 1 (Officer Tindall's incident
report), government's Exhibit 2 (a compact disc
containing videotapes of Officer Tindall's squad car and
body camera), and defendant's Exhibit A (same as
government's Exhibit 2). For the reasons that follow, I
respectfully recommend that the Court deny defendant's
motion to suppress.
FINDINGS OF FACT
October 20, 2017, at approximately 10:00 p.m., Waterloo
Police Officer Andrew Tindall observed a silver Hyundai Santa
Fe with a defective left license plate lamp. Officer Tindall
conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle. Officer Tindall made
contact with the driver of the vehicle, defendant, who was
unable to provide a driver's license, but identified
himself by name.
informed Officer Tindall that defendant was known to carry
weapons. Defendant was asked to step outside of the vehicle,
and Officer Tindall performed a pat down of defendant's
person. Officer Tindall recovered a silver Bryco Arms
Jennings Nine Model 9mm handgun concealed within
Hyundai Santa Fe operated by defendant was manufactured with
two lights for illumination of the license plate. Officer
Tindall's body camera captured the license plate area of
the Hyundai Santa Fe which showed the inoperable left license
plate lamp. (Exhibit 2). Officer Tindall noted in his report
that the defective license plate lamp was “in violation
of IA Code” without mentioning a specific code section.
(Exhibit 1, at 5).
Tindall is a patrol officer with only four years of
Fourth Amendment guarantees the “right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S.
Const. Amend. IV. It is well established that a traffic stop
constitutes a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes.
Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996).
A traffic stop is lawful if supported by probable cause or
reasonable suspicion that a vehicle committed a traffic
violation. United States v. Washington, 455 F.3d
824, 826 (8th Cir. 2006). “Even a minor traffic
violation provides probable cause for a traffic stop.”
United States v. Harris, 617 F.3d 977, 979
(8th Cir. 2010). “Whether probable cause exists for a
traffic stop is judged by whether any mistake, whether of law
or fact, is objectively reasonable.” Id.
(citing United States v. Martin, 411 F.3d 998, 1001
(8th Cir. 2005)). At the hearing, defendant conceded that if
the traffic stop was valid, that there is no other ground for
suppressing the evidence, and the government conceded that if
the traffic stop was invalid, then all of the evidence from
the traffic stop should be suppressed.
argues the firearm seized from defendant was the result of an
unlawful seizure because Officer Tindall had no reasonable
suspicion that defendant was operating the vehicle in
violation of any state law. (Doc. 19-1, at 2). At the
hearing, Officer Tindall testified that he believed defendant
was operating the vehicle in violation of the second sentence
of Iowa Code § 321.387, as the vehicle had a defective
left license plate lamp. Iowa Code § 321.387, entitled
“Rear Lamps, ” provides:
Every motor vehicle and every vehicle which is being drawn at
the end of a train of vehicles shall be equipped with a
lighted rear lamp or lamps, exhibiting a red light plainly
visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.
All lamps and lighting equipment originally manufactured
on a motor vehicle shall be kept in working condition or
shall be replaced with equivalent equipment.
Code § 321.387 (emphasis added). The plain language of
the statute seems to be all-encompassing by requiring that
“all lamps and lighting equipment originally
manufactured on a motor vehicle” be kept in working
condition. Defendant, however, argues that § 321.387 is
entitled Rear Lamps, and argues it is clear from the context
of the statute that “lamps and lighting
equipment” referred to in the final sentence is a
reference to the red “lighted rear lamp or lamps”
identified in the preceding sentence and “is not