from the Iowa District Court for Worth County, Colleen D.
Tostenson appeals following his conviction for operating
C. Gangestad of Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, P.L.C.,
West Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.
Tostenson appeals his conviction for operating while
intoxicated (OWI), challenging the denial of his motion to
suppress evidence obtained during a traffic stop. Tostenson
contends the State violated his constitutional right against
unreasonable search and seizure because the officer did not
have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop him.
Because the State has failed to provide sufficient evidence
to support the traffic stop, we reverse the denial of
Tostenson's motion to suppress and remand for further
Background Facts and Proceedings.
John Michael Smith of the Worth County Sheriff's Office
was off duty when he watched a silver four-door sedan pull
into the parking lot of a Dollar General store and strike a
light pole while turning around. The car left and pulled into
the parking lot of the adjacent Casey's store. After the
impact, Sergeant Smith saw damage to the metal shroud at the
base of the light pole. He walked to the Casey's parking
lot and observed the car's license plate number before
contacting the Worth County dispatch to report the incident.
Police Department Officer Cameron Curoe responded to Sergeant
Smith's report. Although the vehicle left before Officer
Curoe arrived, Sergeant Smith told the officer which
direction he saw the car was heading. Officer Curoe drove
that direction, located the vehicle, and stopped it. He
noticed damage to the underside of the car's front
bumper. While speaking with Tostenson, the driver, Officer
Curoe smelled "a slight odor" of alcoholic beverage
on Tostenson's breath. Later, when Tostenson was sitting
in the front seat of the patrol vehicle, Officer Curoe
smelled "a very strong odor of alcohol" coming from
Tostenson's breath. After field sobriety testing, Officer
Curoe transported him to the jail for a breath test, which
showed Tostenson's blood alcohol concentration was .19.
Officer Curoe cited Tostenson for hit and run-vehicle damage
only. The State charged Tostenson with OWI.
moved to suppress the evidence discovered after stopping his
vehicle, alleging Officer Curoe did not have probable cause
or reasonable suspicion to stop him. The district court
denied the motion following a hearing. In its ruling, the
court determined that a violation Iowa Code section 321.262
could not justify the traffic stop because the accident did
not involve a vehicle driven or attended by another person.
But the court did not restrict its analysis to this section,
noting that Officer Curoe testified he was investigating a
"hit and run," a "much more general term"
for which a "number of statutes are relevant." The
court found Officer Curoe had grounds for stopping Tostenson
based on a suspected violation of Iowa Code 321.266(2), which
requires a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident
causing $1500 or more in property damage to report the
accident. The court found that "the extent of damage to
the pole and to [Tostenson]'s vehicle might not exceed
$1500" but concluded that "it is not unreasonable
to think that it might." Following bench trial on the
minutes of evidence, the district court found Tostenson
guilty of OWI.
contends the district court erred in denying his motion to
suppress because the traffic stop violated his constitutional
right against unreasonable searches and seizures. We review
the denial of a motion to suppress alleging constitutional
violations de novo. See State v. Brown, 930 N.W.2d
840, 844 (Iowa 2019). This standard requires that we examine
the entire record and make an independent evaluation given
the unique circumstances before us. See id.
traffic stop is permissible under our Iowa and Federal
Constitutions when supported by probable cause or reasonable
suspicion of a crime." State v. McIver, 858
N.W.2d 699, 702 (Iowa 2015). Probable cause exists when the
circumstances would allow a reasonable person to believe a
person is committing or has committed a crime. See State
v. Tague, 676 N.W.2d 197, 201 (Iowa 2004). If an officer
has only a reasonable suspicion that a person is engaged in
criminal activity, the officer may briefly detain the person
to investigate. See id. at 204. "When a peace
officer observes any type of traffic ...