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State v. Smith

Supreme Court of Iowa

October 12, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
CODY TYLER SMITH, Appellant.

          On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clarke County, Monty W. Franklin, Judge.

         A defendant convicted of operating while intoxicated seeks further review of a court of appeals decision affirming his conviction and the denial of his motion to suppress.

          Scott A. Michels of Gourley, Rehkemper, & Lindholm, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

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

          PER CURIAM.

         At 4:30 a.m., officers responded to a dispatch report of a vehicle in a roadside ditch. According to dispatch, a witness did not see any injuries, but saw the possible driver walking away. The officers did not find the driver, but they did see a van pass by on the road. The van briefly stopped in a nearby driveway, pulled out, and departed. The officers ran a check on the van's license plate and noticed it was registered to another member of the same household that the vehicle in the ditch had been registered to. One of the officers followed the van and pulled it over. It turned out that the driver of the car that had gone into the ditch was riding as a passenger in the van, and he was wearing only one boot. He was subsequently convicted of operating while intoxicated (OWI).

         On appeal, we must decide whether the stop of the van was permissible under the community caretaking doctrine. Guided by our recent decision in State v. Coffman, 914 N.W.2d 240 (Iowa 2018), we conclude that it was not. Accordingly, we hold that the stop of van violated article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of conviction and sentence and the denial of the motion to suppress, vacate the decision of the court of appeals, and remand this case for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Procedural Background.

         At approximately 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 2, 2016, sheriff's deputies were called to the scene of a single-vehicle accident in Clarke County. Dispatch informed Deputies Smith and Fitzpatrick that the vehicle was in a roadside ditch. Dispatch also relayed that a passerby had seen a possible driver walking away from the vehicle and had not seen any injuries.

         After arriving at the scene, Deputy Fitzpatrick ran a check on the license plate of the vehicle in the ditch and determined it belonged to a Steven Smith with an Osceola address. Deputy Smith drove around in search of the individual who had been seen walking from the accident. Not finding anyone, he reparked his patrol car next to the vehicle in the ditch. On the front seat of that vehicle, he found a Minnesota driver's license belonging to the defendant, Cody Smith. There was no indication inside the vehicle that Cody had been injured.[1]

         Meanwhile, a van drove by. It pulled into the driveway of a nearby residence, pulled back out of the driveway, and departed. Officer Smith ran a check on the van's license plate and determined it belonged to a Noreen Smith, who shared the same Osceola address as Steven.

         Deputy Smith followed the van and pulled it over. When asked why he stopped the van, Deputy Smith testified,

I was checking on the welfare of the people. I also found it suspicious that the vehicle driving by and the vehicle in the ditch had the same address when that address is approximately four miles southwest of where the vehicle in the ditch was at.

         Deputy Smith further testified that he stopped the van because he "believed that the individual involved in the accident was either in the van, or those people were also looking ...


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