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State v. Robbins

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DAVID MIKEL ROBBINS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Marshall County, John J. Haney (motion to suppress) and James C. Ellefson (trial), Judges.

         David Robbins appeals his convictions following a jury trial. AFFIRMED.

          Christopher A. Clausen of Clausen Law Office, Ames, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         David Robbins appeals from his convictions for several drug-related offenses asserting his motion to suppress should have been granted because the application for the search warrant lacked corroboration, he was entitled to a Franks hearing, and the district court abused its discretion in declining to reopen the suppression record. Robbins also asserts his motions for judgment of acquittal and new trial should have been granted. Because there is sufficient evidence to corroborate the warrant application information and Robbins was given two suppression hearings to make his challenges to the search warrant, his motion to suppress evidence was properly denied. We also agree with the district court that Robbins was competent to stand trial, there was sufficient evidence of Robbins's in-court identity, and there was no abuse of discretion in allowing the jury to hear an audio recording on a different playback device in the jury room. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On April 7, 2014, Marshalltown Police obtained a search warrant and a S.W.A.T. team executed the warrant on a residence occupied by Robbins. Officers found approximately one-half pound of methamphetamine, approximately two pounds of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, and cash. An officer spoke with Robbins following the search and asked him who occupied the northwest bedroom where most of the contraband was found. Robbins answered, "Mel and me, " indicating he shared the room with a woman. The conversation was captured on an audio recording. Robbins was arrested and charged with possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, in violation of Iowa Code sections 124.401(1)(b)(7) and 124.441 (2014); possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, in violation of Iowa Code sections 124.401(1)(d) and 124.441; failure to affix a drug-tax stamp, methamphetamine, as a habitual offender, in violation of Iowa Code sections 453B.3, 902.7, and 902.9(1)(c); and failure to affix a drug-tax stamp, marijuana, as a habitual offender, in violation of Iowa Code sections 453B.3, 902.8, and 902.9(1)(c).[1] Robbins proceeded to a jury trial, was convicted of the aforementioned charges, and was sentenced. Robbins appeals.

         II. Standards of Review

         Our review of a district court's ruling regarding probable cause for issuance of a search warrant is de novo. State v. Myers, 570 N.W.2d 70, 72 (Iowa 1997). Under our de novo review, we must determine whether the district court properly decided whether the magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed. See State v. Green, 540 N.W.2d 649, 655 (Iowa 1995).

         We review a district court's grant or denial of a motion in arrest of judgment and a motion for a new trial for abuse of discretion." State v. Smith, 753 N.W.2d 562, 564 (Iowa 2008); Millis v. Hute, 587 N.W.2d 625, 629 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). We will not reverse unless the court abused its discretion by making a "clearly untenable" ruling "without reason." State v. Andrews, 447 N.W.2d 118, 120 (Iowa 1989).

         III. Motion to Suppress

         A. Search Warrant

          Robbins asserts the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence obtained under the search warrant because there was not adequate corroboration of the informant's information to meet the credibility requirement and the application contained misrepresentations.

         "Probable cause to issue a search warrant exists 'when the facts and circumstances presented to the judicial officer are sufficient in themselves to justify the belief of a reasonably cautious person that an offense has been or is being committed.'" State v. Groff, 323 N.W.2d 204, 212 (Iowa 1982) (citations omitted). Probable cause requires a probability determination that "(1) the items sought are connected to criminal activity and (2) the items sought will be found in the place to be searched." State v. Gogg, 561 N.W.2d 360, 363 (Iowa 1997). The assessment of probable cause is not to be an overly technical exercise. Id. at 364.

The task of the issuing magistrate is simply to make a practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him, including the "veracity" and "basis of knowledge" of persons supplying hearsay information, there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place.

Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238 (1983). When reviewing the application, all reasonable inferences are drawn in support of the judge's finding of probable cause and we give great deference to the judge's conclusion. Gogg, 561, N.W.2d at 364. Because we give preference to searches pursuant to warrants, we resolve doubts in favor of the warrant's validity. State v. Weir, 414 N.W.2d 327, 330 (Iowa 1987). The amount of evidence needed to support probable cause is ...


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