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State v. Esparza

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 10, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT ALEJANDRO ESPARZA, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Odell G. McGhee and William A. Price (sentencing), District Associate Judges.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for driving while his license was denied or revoked.

          John C. Audlehelm of Audlehelm Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A jury found Robert Esparza guilty of driving while revoked. On appeal, Esparza contends his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress statements he made during an alleged custodial interrogation before police gave him the Miranda warning.[1] Because the record is inadequate to decide this issue, we affirm Esparza's conviction but preserve his ineffective-assistance claim for possible postconviction-relief proceedings.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         In March 2017, a Kum & Go convenience store clerk called West Des Moines police to report "an unwanted guest" disrupting business. When Officer Kyle Slifka arrived, he saw Robert Esparza standing near the cash register, "eating a bag of Cheetos." Officer Slifka noticed Esparza "was missing his mouth trying to get the Cheetos," leaving telltale orange crumbs "all over his shirt." As the officer spoke to Esparza, he detected signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, the smell of alcoholic beverages, confusion, and unsteady balance.[2] The officer asked Esparza, "How did you get here?" Esparza pointed to his car and said, "I drove here."

         After Esparza's admission, the two went outside and stood by Esparza's car. Officer Slifka asked Esparza more questions to learn "what exactly was going on," but he "[n]ever really got any clear-cut answer." The officer ran a computer check of Esparza's driver's license and discovered it was revoked.

         The State charged Esparza with driving while revoked in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.21 (2017). The case proceeded to a jury trial. On September 18, Esparza's attorney moved in limine to exclude "[a]ny evidence regarding defendant's statement that he drove on the date of his arrest." Counsel elaborated in a supplemental motion in limine filed September 24, "Since arrest had occurred, or was about to occur, the officer was required to inform the defendant of his Constitutional rights pursuant to Miranda," and because Esparza "was not informed of his Constitutional rights[, the] statements he made to the investigating officer [are] not admissible in this case." Trial began September 25. The State resisted the Miranda claim as untimely, asserting Esparza should have filed a motion to suppress. The court agreed and denied the limine motion.[3]

         The jury found Esparza guilty. He now appeals, contending his attorney was ineffective in failing to file a timely motion to suppress the challenged statements.

         II. Analysis

         Esparza claims his attorney was ineffective for failing to timely move to suppress statements he made to Officer Slifka before receiving Miranda warnings. We ordinarily reserve ineffective-assistance claims for postconviction proceedings so the parties may develop the record. See State v. Thorndike, 860 N.W.2d 316, 319 (Iowa ...


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