from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Brook
Jacobsen, District Associate Judge.
Brown appeals the district court's denial of her motion
to suppress evidence.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender (until withdrawal), and
Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Richard J. Bennett, Special
Counsel, for appellee.
by Mullins, P.J., Vogel, C.J., and Vaitheswaran, Doyle, and
MULLINS, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Brown appeals her convictions of two counts of second-offense
possession of a controlled substance, contending the district
court erred in denying her motion to suppress evidence
obtained as a result of a traffic stop. She contends the
State failed to meet its burden to prove the continued
detention following the initial stop of her vehicle was
constitutional. She additionally argues the stopping
officer's failure "to diligently and reasonably
investigate the reasonable suspicion for the traffic
stop" rendered the continued detention unconstitutional.
Background Facts and Proceedings
before 3:00 a.m. on January 4, 2018, Officer Nicholas Weber
of the Waterloo Police Department noticed a black Volkswagen
SUV with no rear license plate. Instead of a license plate,
the vehicle was donning a "paper dealer plate" on
its bumper. Weber also did not observe a temporary
registration tag affixed to the vehicle. Weber testified to
his understanding of temporary registration tags as follows:
It is my understanding that it is supposed to be placed in
lieu of a plate until a plate is issued, placed somewhere
where it is visible similar to a license plate so that all
numbers, digits, letters can be read clearly and from a
initiated a traffic stop of the vehicle, which was driven by
Brown. Weber testified the body and windows of the vehicle
were dirty. A review of the dash- and body-camera footage
admitted as evidence at the suppression hearing supports this
characterization. The footage also confirms Weber's
testimony that the rear window had dark tint and the district
court's description of exhaust "billowing up from
the rear driver's side" of the vehicle. At the time
he stopped the vehicle, Weber did not observe any temporary
registration tags on the vehicle. Weber immediately
approached the vehicle. Weber testified to his habit of
cautiously approaching a vehicle during a traffic stop and
observing the driver for furtive movements. After making
contact and a brief exchange, Weber requested Brown's
"license, purchase paperwork, and insurance." Weber
testified he asked for purchase paperwork instead of a
vehicle registration because the vehicle did not have a valid
license plate, as he would typically do in such a situation.
Brown immediately responded, "I'm going to be
honest-I don't have a license." Weber questioned
Brown about the status of her driver's license, and Brown
advised she has never had a license. Weber then requested
identification from Brown and again asked for purchase
paperwork and proof of insurance for the vehicle. Brown was
able to locate and tender a valid registration for the
vehicle but could not locate a license plate to correspond
with that registration.
returned to his vehicle, ran Brown's information through
dispatch, and learned Brown's driver's license was
suspended. Brown subsequently admitted to the presence of
drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. A search of the vehicle
was ultimately conducted, which uncovered the paraphernalia,
a stun gun, and controlled substances. Officers also learned
Brown was the subject of an active arrest warrant. Brown was
taken into custody.
Weber not observing a temporary registration tag on the
vehicle when he initiated the traffic stop, one was affixed
inside the vehicle on the driver side of the rear window.
Weber generally testified he does not recall at what point
during the course of the foregoing events he observed the
tag. However, he confirmed he did not identify it
"immediately on approach." Our review of the video
footage in its entirety shows that the view of the temporary
registration tag was somewhat obstructed by window tint,
dirt, the vehicle's exhaust, and reflective glare, but
its presence-but not necessarily the information contained
thereon- could be discerned from an inspection.
was charged by trial information with carrying weapons and
three counts of second-offense possession of a controlled
substance. She subsequently filed a motion to
suppress, arguing the search of her vehicle was in violation
of article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution and the
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. At the
suppression hearing, defense counsel clarified she was not
challenging the legality of the initial stop or the
subsequent search of the vehicle but instead was challenging
the legality of the continued detention. The district court
denied the motion to suppress. The matter proceeded to ...