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State v. Newton

Supreme Court of Iowa

June 7, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
TIMOTHY ALVIN NEWTON, Appellant.

          On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Ringgold County, Dustria A. Relph, Judge.

         Appeal from judgment and sentence for operating while intoxicated and child endangerment.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, and Clint L. Spurrier, County Attorney, for appellee.

          CADY, Chief Justice.

         In this appeal from a judgment and sentence entered by the district court for operating while intoxicated (OWI), second offense, we consider whether the portion of the statute that makes it unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle "[w]hile any amount of a controlled substance is present in the person" violates the Due Process Clause of the United States and Iowa Constitutions. Iowa Code § 321J.2(1)(c) (2014).

         After we transferred the case to the court of appeals, it found the statute was constitutional but reversed the judgment and sentence after finding the district court failed to engage in a proper colloquy before accepting the stipulation relating to the prior conviction for OWI. It declined to address a claim of sentencing error. On further review, we only address the due process claim and agree with the court of appeals on the disposition of the other issues. We conclude the clause of the OWI statute that makes it unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle with any amount of a controlled substance in his or her person does not violate the Due Process Clause of either our Federal or State Constitution as applied to this case.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Timothy Newton was convicted following a jury trial of the crime of OWI, second offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2(1) and section 321J.2(2)(b). He was also convicted of child endangerment, in violation of section 726.6(1)(a) and section 726.6(7). The background facts date back to the early morning hours of September 3, 2014, when a deputy sheriff discovered a sports utility vehicle and a detached trailer stuck in a muddy ditch near the driveway of a home. Newton was in the driver's seat of the vehicle. The engine was running. Newton's seat was in a reclined position and the driver's door was open. Newton's eleven-year-old son was standing just outside the vehicle.

         Newton displayed signs of intoxication or impairment to the deputy sheriff. He appeared oblivious to his surroundings and was disoriented. Newton was also confused, even about the day of the week. He could only vaguely describe how the vehicle and trailer had entered the ditch. Another deputy who arrived shortly after the first deputy performed several field sobriety tests. Newton failed some of the tests and passed others. A preliminary breath test did not detect the presence of alcohol in his body, but the horizontal gaze nystagmus test and other testing indicated to the deputy that Newton was under the influence of a substance. Additionally, the deputy had previously been told by another law enforcement officer that Newton was known to use drugs.

         The deputies invoked implied-consent procedures. A urine sample was eventually obtained from Newton and analyzed at the State Department of Criminal Investigation laboratory. The sample was found to contain benzodiazepine, opiates, cocaine metabolites, marijuana metabolites, and tricyclics. A confirmatory test validated these results. Newton was subsequently charged with OWI, second offense, and child endangerment. He filed a motion to suppress the urine sample, claiming the deputy invoked the implied-consent procedures without having reasonable grounds to believe Newton was operating the vehicle while under the influence. The district court found Newton displayed visible signs of impairment at the scene to support reasonable grounds for invoking the implied-consent testing procedures. It denied the motion.

         At trial, Newton's father testified that he was driving the vehicle at the time it entered the ditch and that Newton and his son were passengers in the vehicle. Newton's son testified that Newton drove the vehicle only in an attempt to remove it from the ditch after his grandfather left the scene to find help. Newton's wife and son testified Newton had been ill for several days and had been acting lethargic and exhausted.

         The State criminologist who tested the urine sample testified to the results. He also explained the metabolism process of drugs in the human body. He explained that the process causes drug metabolites to pool in a person's bladder and remain there for days. He further explained this process means a urine sample of a person can test positive for drugs or the metabolites of drugs consumed many days prior to the time the sample was taken and long after the effects of the drug have dissipated. Another toxicologist testified consistently with the testimony of the State's criminologist.

         The jury was instructed that Newton could be found guilty of operating while intoxicated if he operated a motor vehicle either while (a) under the influence of drugs or (b) having any amount of a controlled substance present, as measured in his blood or urine. The jury was also instructed that each juror did not need to agree to one alternative to return a verdict only that all jurors at least needed to agree to one of either of the alternatives.

         The jury returned a verdict of guilty to operating while intoxicated and child endangerment. Newton subsequently stipulated to a previous conviction of operating while intoxicated in 2007 to elevate the OWI conviction to a second offense. At sentencing, the district court denied probation, in part, by mentioning that Newton had been charged with another crime that allegedly occurred after his arrest in this case. Following sentencing, Newton appealed.

         Newton raised three issues on appeal. First, he claimed a conviction for operating while intoxicated based on a finding of "any amount" of a controlled substance in his person under Iowa Code section 321J.2(1)(c) violated his due process rights under the Federal and State Constitutions.[1] Second, he claimed his stipulation to a prior conviction for OWI was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. Finally, he claimed the district court considered unproven offenses in imposing the sentence.

         We transferred the case to the court of appeals. It found section 321J.2(1)(c) did not violate the Due Process Clause of either the Federal or State Constitution. However, it found the district court failed to engage in the required colloquy before accepting Newton's stipulation to the prior conviction for OWI. Accordingly, the court of appeals directed that the sentence be vacated and remanded the case for a new hearing on the prior conviction. It declined to address the claim of sentencing error concerning the prior unproven offense.

         Newton sought, and we granted, further review. On further review, we only consider Newton's claim that his rights under the Due Process Clause of the State and Federal Constitutions were violated when he was prosecuted for having "any amount" of a controlled substance in his urine. As to the two remaining claims, we agree with the analysis and conclusions of the court of appeals. The case must be returned to the district court for a new multiple-offender hearing pursuant to the procedures established in State v. Harrington, 893 N.W.2d 36, 47 (Iowa 2017). Additionally, because the case must be returned for entry of a new judgment and resentencing, we agree it is unnecessary to address the claim of sentencing, error raised in this case.

         In regard to the Due Process Claim, Newton asserts the "any amount" standard under Iowa Code section 321J.2(1)(c) is vague and not rationally related to the purpose of the statute. Newton asserts the statute is vague because it fails to provide fair notice of when conduct is prohibited because a urine sample can contain metabolites or derivatives of a controlled substance days after use of the controlled substance and after impairment from the drug has dissipated. He further claims these consequences can lead to arbitrary arrests and prosecutions. Newton further asserts a substantive due process claim. He claims ...


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