from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Kellyann M.
defendant challenges the district court's denial of his
motion to suppress.
P. Frerichs of Frerichs Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Blane,
Ewalt appeals from his conviction for possession of a
controlled substance (marijuana). He challenges the district
court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence
obtained after the initiation of a routine traffic stop for
speeding. Ewalt maintains the officer unconstitutionally
extended the duration of the stop; he also argues he should
have been told his Miranda rights before the
officer asked him questions pertaining to his use of
Background Facts and Procedures.
August 15, 2015, Trooper Jim Smith initiated a stop of a
vehicle traveling nine miles per hour more than the posted
speed limit. When the officer reached the driver's side
window to speak to the driver-who he later learned was Ewalt-
he noted that Ewalt was holding a freshly lit cigarette.
According to his testimony, in the officer's experience,
drivers sometimes light cigarettes once a stop has been
initiated in order to mask the odor of alcohol or marijuana.
Additionally, the officer later testified that when he
reached the window, Ewalt's eyes were watery and
bloodshot and Ewalt's hand shook when he reached for the
registration. The officer noted that the vehicle was
registered under a woman's name. While the car had Iowa
license plates, Ewalt's driver's license had been
issued by the state of Missouri. Ewalt told the officer that
he was just leaving "our golf course," referencing
the local course. The officer testified Ewalt avoided making
eye contact with him while they spoke. According to the
officer's testimony, based on all of the foregoing, he
was then concerned both that Ewalt was driving while under
the influence and that there was an issue with Ewalt driving
the vehicle-the officer questioned whether Ewalt was able to
obtain an Iowa driver's license and wondered if he may be
barred from driving in the state.
officer asked Ewalt to come sit with him in his squad car; he
told him he would need to sign something on the computer that
was in the front seat of the squad car. Ewalt walked himself
to the front, passenger seat of the squad car and got in. He
was not under restraints, and the passenger-side door was not
locked. During this time, Ewalt's passenger remained
seated in the car Ewalt was driving.
Trooper Smith and Ewalt sat in the front seat of the squad
car, the officer asked Ewalt if he had a criminal record.
Ewalt responded that he had a marijuana conviction a couple
years before and another one five years before that. The
officer then asked Ewalt when he had last smoked marijuana;
Ewalt reported it had been about one week.
Smith expressed that his job was to ensure that Ewalt was not
driving while under the influence; the officer then began
asking Ewalt questions about his tolerance, including his
age, how many years he had been smoking marijuana, how much
marijuana he smokes at a time, and how often he smokes it.
Ewalt answered the questions and informed the officer that he
smokes marijuana to self-medicate for pain.
Smith then began administering some field sobriety tests.
Ewalt showed two clues in the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
Additionally, the officer checked Ewalt's tongue and
noted some heat bumps, which the officer later testified is
associated with smoking marijuana. The officer indicated he had
some reason to believe Ewalt may be under the influence and
then asked Ewalt again when he had last smoked marijuana;
Ewalt changed his answer, stating he had smoked marijuana the
night before last. Trooper Smith asked Ewalt if there were
drugs in the car, and Ewalt responded, "I don't
think so." The officer pressed him, indicating he would
view Ewalt's previous statements with less credibility if
he learned there were drugs in the car when he spoke with the
passenger. Ewalt then changed his answer, stating,
"There might be some in there. We had a little
canister." When asked where it would be located, Ewalt
responded, "If it's in the car, I would say probably
in one of our bags." Ewalt agreed that if there were
drugs in the car, they were his and not the passenger's.
Additionally, Ewalt agreed that if there were drugs in the
car, the passenger would probably know where they were
officer then left Ewalt in the squad car while he spoke with
the passenger. Based on the video from the officer's
squad car, which was admitted into evidence, the officer
began speaking with the passenger, who then opened the trunk
of the vehicle from inside the passenger compartment. She
exited the vehicle, got her purse out from the trunk, and
then handed the officer her identification. Trooper Smith
told the passenger Ewalt had admitted there were drugs in the
vehicle and then asked her where they were located. She told
him it was in her bag in the car but the drugs belonged to
Ewalt. The officer then retrieved the marijuana from the bag.
Smith conducted a couple more field sobriety tests with Ewalt
before ultimately placing him under arrest for possession of
marijuana. Ewalt ...