from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Russell G.
Keast (motion to suppress), Nicholas L. Scott (stipulated
trial), and Casey D. Jones (sentencing), District Associate
defendant appeals his conviction for possession of
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Zachary C. Miller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
Frost appeals his conviction for possession of
methamphetamine, claiming police violated his constitutional
protection against unreasonable search and seizure by finding
contraband inside a closed container taken from Frost's
pocket during a warrantless search. Because police exceeded
the scope of Frost's consent, we reverse the suppression
ruling and remand for further proceedings.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
2 a.m., Jennifer Roberts, a sergeant with the Cedar Rapids
Police Department, overheard dispatch refer to a
"suspicious vehicle"-the occupants of a white van
entered a residence where police had been frequently called
to deal with "stolen vehicles, narcotics and wanted
persons." According to dispatch, the suspects
"carried a bunch of stuff out, apparently getting back
into the van." A patrol unit tracked the van for several
blocks, trying to establish probable cause to investigate,
but found no valid reason for a traffic stop.
Roberts saw the van turn into a Walgreens parking lot and
decided to follow. The van parked in a designated space.
Roberts, who was in uniform and driving a marked squad car,
pulled in behind and slightly to the side of the van so as to
not block it in. As Roberts left her vehicle, two other
police cars, including an unmarked sedan driven by Officer
Christopher Brand, converged on the Walgreens lot. A total of
three police vehicles and five police officers joined the
investigation. None of the police vehicles activated
emergency lights or sirens.
approached the driver, who had stepped out of the van, and
asked if she could speak with him. Roberts did not direct any
questions to the van's two passengers. The driver agreed
to speak to the officer and identified himself as Jerald
Frost. Roberts asked to see his driver's license to
verify his identity. As Roberts returned Frost's license,
Officer Brand walked up. Both Roberts and Brand carried
firearms and tasers but did not draw them. Roberts told Frost
she had received a report of the van's occupants removing
items from a residence associated with methamphetamine use
and one of the van's passengers was a known
methamphetamine user. Roberts then asked Frost "if he
had anything illegal on him." Frost denied possessing
thanked Frost for speaking with the officers, told him he was
free to go, but then asked if Officer Brand could "pat
him down". Frost raised his arms in response. Brand also
asked permission before beginning the patdown. Frost verbally
consented to Brand's request. During the patdown, Brand
felt and removed two aluminum cylinders with screw lids from
Frost's front pants pocket. Brand opened both cylinders
without seeking Frost's permission. One cylinder
State charged Frost with possession of methamphetamine, in
violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2017). Frost filed
a motion to suppress evidence seized during the warrantless
search. The motion cited both the Fourth Amendment of the
United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the
Iowa Constitution. The district court held a suppression
hearing where the State called Roberts and Brand as the only
witnesses. The court denied the motion to suppress,
concluding Frost was not seized, consented to the search, and
by raising his hands, indicated he knew the extent of the
search request. Frost waived his right to a jury trial and
proceeded to a trial on the minutes of evidence. The district
court found Frost guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Frost now
Standard of Review
review issues involving constitutional claims de novo.
State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, 771 (Iowa 2011). When
reviewing the reasonableness of a search, we look to the
entire record in light of the unique circumstances of each
case. Id. We defer to the district court's fact
findings but we are not bound by those findings. State v.
Turner, 630 N.W.2d 601, 606 (Iowa 2001).
the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 8 of the Iowa
constitution protect citizens from unreasonable search and
seizure. State v. Ingram, 914 N.W.2d 794, 799 (Iowa
2018) (highlighting "the potential for an independent
state court interpretation under the state constitution that
is more protective of individual rights"). When a
defendant raises both federal and state constitutional
claims, we may choose to consider either claim first, or both
claims simultaneously. State v. Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d
260, 267 (Iowa 2010).
appeal, Frost presents two separate suppression claims based
on state and federal constitutional provisions. First, Frost
contends he was impermissibly seized by officers in the
Walgreens parking lot. Second, Frost challenges the proof of