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State v. Lobo

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 20, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
HECTOR MARTINEZ LOBO, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William A. Price, District Associate Judge.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated. AFFIRMED.

          Alexander Smith and Benjamin Bergmann of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

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

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

          BOWER, Judge.

         Hector Martinez Lobo appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated (OWI). He contends a state trooper impermissibly stopped his car, and the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence gathered after the seizure. We find the district court properly denied the motion to suppress and affirm Martinez's conviction.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Around 1:40 on a Sunday morning in May 2017, Iowa State Trooper Benjamin Lampe was patrolling Interstate 80 in Polk County. Driving eastbound, the trooper noticed a red Chevrolet Camaro merging onto the interstate from the Second Avenue onramp. The Camaro caught his attention because "[w]hen he merged on, he did not merge into or onto Interstate 80 eastbound until the very last moment, crossing, basically, the white solid line markers, what we call the gore[1] area, before merging onto the interstate kind of at the last minute or last second of the ramp." The driver also left his turn signal on for a "considerable distance" after merging.

         The driver's actions prompted Trooper Lampe to continue to observe the Camaro. He activated his in-car video camera. Trooper Lampe testified:

But [the driver of the Camaro], he made several lane violations that drew my attention further. He made lane violations to the left of the lane, crossing the white hash marker, and then also on the right side as well, which would-at that time, was a solid white line initially. And he was basically, what I consider, weaving within his lane and actually crossing outside of his traveled portion of his lane multiple times. I believe I counted roughly five to the left and two to the right before I made the traffic stop.

         The trooper observed the Camaro over the distance of about three and one-half miles.

         After signaling the Camaro to pull over, the trooper could smell the odor of alcohol while speaking to the driver, Martinez Lobo, through the passenger-side window. When the trooper moved Martinez Lobo into his patrol car, he noticed the suspect's eyes were watery and bloodshot. The trooper conducted field sobriety tests, the results of which suggested Martinez Lobo was impaired. Martinez Lobo refused a breath test at the police station.

         The State charged Martinez Lobo with OWI, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2 (2017), a serious misdemeanor. Martinez Lobo filed a motion to suppress, claiming the traffic stop was not warranted. At the suppression hearing, Trooper Lampe testified considering the time of night and defendant's driving, "I did suspect that there was something going on, either the driver is for some reason distracted or possibly impaired." He stated defendant committed lane violations by "[g]oing outside your designated travel portion of your lane." The video of the incident was presented into evidence.

The court denied the motion to suppress, ruling from the bench:
The court finds that this is not an isolated incident . . . but rather a series of seven incidents of crossing or driving on the dashed lines or fog line and, as well, as leaving the turn signal on for approximately a minute, or slightly more, and driving across a part of the gore area in the attempt to switch lanes to remain on Interstate 80 rather than go off the East 14th Street exit.
The court further finds that the court observed no actual violations of any Code section. So this case will rise or fall on whether or not the trooper had, or at the time of the stop, a reasonable articulable reason or reasons for an investigatory stop.
Based upon all of the foregoing findings, the court finds that the trooper did have a reasonable articulable reason or reasons for the investigatory stop: The consistent weaving within the lane, crossing the dashed lines to the left on five occasions, driving on the fog line on two occasions; leaving the turn signal on for approximately a mile after the necessity to have a turn signal on was over, that being having already switched lanes; as well as crossing over and through a part of the gore area at East 14th Street in order to change lanes.

         After the suppression motion was denied, Martinez Lobo stipulated to a trial on the minutes of testimony. The district court made an oral finding Martinez Lobo was driving under the influence. The court entered judgment on the OWI offense. Martinez Lobo appeals, challenging only the suppression ruling.

         II. Standard of Review

         Martinez Lobo argues the investigative stop violated both his state and federal constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. See U.S. Const. amend. IV; Iowa Const. art. I, § 8. Because his claim is constitutional in nature, we review it de novo. See State v. Tyler, 830 N.W.2d 288, 291 (Iowa 2013). De novo review entails an "independent evaluation of the totality of the circumstances as shown by the entire record." Id. (quoting State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, 771 (Iowa 2011)). While we give deference to the district court's factual findings, we are not bound by them. Id.

         III. ...


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