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State v. Apfel

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MONTE ALLEN APFEL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann M. Lekar (suppression) and Bradley J. Harris (trial), Judges.

         Monte Apfel challenges his convictions of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, possession of marijuana, possession of diazepam, unlawful possession of prescription drugs, and drug tax stamp violation.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Tabor, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Monte Apfel appeals his convictions for five drug charges. On appeal, Apfel claims the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We find the traffic stop and subsequent investigation, dog sniff, and search did not violate Apfel's constitutional rights. We affirm the district court.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         At 12:58 a.m. on July 29, 2016, law enforcement initiated a traffic stop of a vehicle after observing it cross the center line. When the officer informed the driver, Apfel, why the traffic stop was initiated, Apfel did not dispute the vehicle crossed the center line. His first reaction was "[W]ell, my car kinda pulls that way a little bit" and soon said he should have gotten the problem fixed, reiterating, "I know it pulls pretty hard that way."

         Apfel told the officer he had purchased the vehicle the day before. Apfel had the vehicle title with him but no registration, proof of insurance, or current license plates. On the title, the seller information was filled out and dated July 27, but no information indicating the buyer, the vehicle's mileage, or a bill of sale was included.[1] Apfel was unable to identify or provide the contact information of the seller of the vehicle. The license plates on the vehicle were registered to a different vehicle owned by Apfel's wife. The officer began an investigation of the ownership status of the vehicle to determine if Apfel had a right to drive it.

         A duffle bag was observed in the back seat, and Apfel provided a vague description of its contents. The officer requested consent to search the vehicle, and Apfel refused. A search on Apfel's driver's license revealed prior drug offenses. The officer called for a canine unit. The unit arrived while the officer continued to investigate the ownership of the vehicle. The officer talked on Apfel's cell phone with an acquaintance of Apfel who helped with the vehicle purchase. The officer requested dispatch make subsequent additional calls on the ownership while the officer checked if the car could stay in the driveway overnight after the invalid license plates were removed. At the same time the canine unit performed a dog sniff outside the vehicle.

         The dog indicated at the open driver side window by trying to jump in the window and, when the officer let him in the vehicle, indicated at the dash. In the dash, officers found bottles of pills and a small zippered case containing methamphetamine, marijuana, a pipe, a scale, and a social security card for Apfel's ex-wife. The officer located notebooks in the glove compartment, one of which appeared to be a drug ledger. The duffle bag contained more drugs and paraphernalia. Apfel was arrested. The officers recovered two hundred diazepam tablets, ten tablets of alprazolam, eight bags of methamphetamine, and marijuana from the vehicle. The officers also removed over $1100 dollars in cash and jewelry from Apfel's person.

         The State charged Apfel with five offenses: (1) possession of more than five grams of methamphetamine with intent to deliver (second offense), in violation of Iowa Code sections 124.401(1)(b)(7) and 124.411 (2016); (2) drug tax stamp violation (habitual offender), in violation of sections 453B.3 and .12; (3) possession of marijuana (third offense), in violation of section 124.401(5); (4) possession of diazepam with intent to deliver, in violation of section 124.401(1)(d); and (5) unlawful possession of a prescription drug, in violation of section 155A.21.

         Apfel filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained during the traffic stop. He made three claims: the officer's observation of his vehicle crossing the center line was not a sufficient basis for initiating a traffic stop; the extension of the traffic stop to wait for the canine officer was unconstitutional; and there was no ...


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