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State v. Salcedo

Supreme Court of Iowa

November 8, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Patrick R. Grady, Judge.

         A defendant challenges the district court's denial of his motion to suppress.

          Sean P. Spellman and Mary K. Spellman of Spellman Law, P.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, Janet M. Lyness, County Attorney, and Elizabeth Beglin, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          CHRISTENSEN, Justice.

         The defendant was stopped for violating Iowa Code section 321.297(2) (2017). That section provides, "Any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic upon all roadways . . . ." The deputy asked defendant and his passenger questions and found their answers suspicious. In response to drug interdiction questions, defendant indicated, "You can do what you got to do." The deputy sought further permission for a consent search. Within fourteen minutes of being pulled over, he consented.

         After conducting a full search of defendant's car, the deputy located over eighty pounds of marijuana in the trunk. Defendant was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence stemming from the stop. The district court denied defendant's motion in its entirety.

         We granted defendant's application for discretionary review. On review, defendant raises four issues: (1) whether the deputy obtained reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity in order to permit the prolonged detention, (2) whether his consent to search was voluntary, (3)whether Iowa Code section 321.297(2) is void for vagueness, and (4)whether probable cause existed for the traffic stop.

         Upon review, we reverse the district court's judgment as to whether the deputy developed reasonable suspicion of other criminal activity before unreasonably prolonging the stop. Consequently, we need not address the other issues.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Deputy Sherriff Cody O'Hare of the Johnson County Sheriff's Office was traveling eastbound on Interstate 80 in response to a reported reckless driver. It was approximately 9:00 p.m. on November 2, 2017, when Deputy O'Hare-en route to that call-encountered a different car traveling in the left lane of Interstate 80's two eastbound lanes. Deputy O'Hare's attention was drawn to this car because, despite the deputy's approach, the car did not move to the right-hand lane to let him pass. Deputy O'Hare testified he approached the car in the left lane, the same lane as his direction of travel. Deputy O'Hare was informed by dispatch that the car was a rental. The posted speed limit on this stretch of interstate was seventy miles per hour. Deputy O'Hare was traveling about seventy-five miles per hour in response to the dispatch call. He estimated the car was traveling approximately sixty miles per hour in the seventy miles-per-hour zone.

         Deputy O'Hare testified he was forced to move to the right-hand lane. He paced the car for three miles at approximately two car lengths behind the car. The car remained in the left most lane throughout the duration of Deputy O'Hare's pacing, even when Interstate 80 became three eastbound lanes. No other traffic, weather, or condition made it unsafe for the car to move to the right-hand lane.

         Deputy O'Hare switched back to the left most lane, followed the car for a moment, and then initiated a traffic stop for violation of Iowa Code section 321.297(2). The car complied without difficulty. At approximately 9:05 p.m., Deputy O'Hare approached the passenger side of the car. He explained he initiated the stop for driving too slow in the left-hand lane and asked the driver for his license and rental car agreement. Due to the loud interstate traffic and cold November weather, Deputy O'Hare asked the driver to accompany him back to the patrol car. The driver indicated he had no weapons on him and allowed Deputy O'Hare to conduct a pat-down search when requested to do so. Following that pat-down, the driver let himself into the unlocked front seat passenger door of the patrol car. It was approximately 9:06 p.m.

         The driver identified himself as Juan Salcedo. Deputy O'Hare initiated a conversation with Salcedo and asked about his travel plans. Salcedo explained he was driving back from California after visiting his girlfriend. Salcedo further explained his home was New York City and he and the passenger, who Salcedo identified as his cousin, were traveling together. Deputy O'Hare repeatedly thumbed through the rental car agreement. In response to Salcedo's questioning about the reason for the stop, Deputy O'Hare said there was no reason for Salcedo to be driving in the fast lane. The conversation continued while Deputy O'Hare again quickly and repeatedly flipped through the rental car agreement. Salcedo stated he initially flew from New York to Florida and then flew from Florida to ...

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