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State v. Rutter

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JEREMY RUTTER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Linda M. Fangman (suppression) and David P. Odekirk (trial and sentencing), Judges.

         Jeremy Rutter appeals his conviction and sentence for two counts of possession with intent to deliver and a drug tax stamp violation.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Greer, JJ.

          GREER, JUDGE.

         Jeremy Rutter appeals his conviction and sentence for two counts of possession with intent to deliver and a drug tax stamp violation as a habitual offender. Rutter argues the district court should have granted his motion to suppress evidence found during a warrantless search of his bedroom. The actions of Rutter's girlfriend confirm the search was based on voluntary consent. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Early in the morning on November 20, 2017, Waterloo police arrested Rutter for eluding. An officer acquainted with Rutter knew he lived in Cedar Falls and was the sole parent of two children after the children's mother passed away.[1] He also heard rumors of Rutter's drug use. When the officer learned of Rutter's arrest, he contacted the Cedar Falls police and requested a welfare check on Rutter's children. The officer also warned Cedar Falls police there might be drug activity at the home.

         Shortly after four in the morning, Captain Jeff Sitzmann and two additional Cedar Falls police officers went to Rutter's home and knocked on the door.[2]Mandy Way, Rutter's girlfriend, answered. Captain Sitzmann asked if he could check on the children because of Rutter's arrest. Way agreed and let the officers into the home. The officers observed the children sleeping in the living room.

         Assured of the children's safety, Captain Sitzmann then asked if he could look around the house. Way agreed. Captain Sitzmann asked where the children's room was. Way showed him and told him "you can look." He did.

         As they moved from the children's bedroom, the dialogue continued with Captain Sitzmann discussing potential drug use with Way and the circumstances of Rutter's arrest. Way assured Captain Sitzmann that Rutter was currently sober. Captain Sitzmann asked if there was anything at the house he should be concerned about, and Way said no. He then asked, "Can I walk around with you just real quick?" Way responded, "Sure." Next, Captain Sitzmann walked through the dining room and kitchen to the basement steps with Way following. As Captain Sitzmann descended the basement steps he asked if it was all right to go into the basement. Way said someone was sleeping in the basement but followed him downstairs.

         Captain Sitzmann knocked on a closed door. The occupant opened the door. Captain Sitzmann spoke to the individuals sleeping in the basement bedroom. He asked about the children's welfare and about any drug use in the home. Captain Sitzmann looked into the room although he respected the occupants' wishes not to search the entire room.

         Continuing through the home, Captain Sitzmann asked Way if he could look through the garage. Way agreed and talked with him as he looked around. After looking through the garage, he asked about other closed doors in the basement. Way told him he could open the doors and look. Captain Sitzmann returned to the basement and looked behind the remaining closed doors while Way stayed upstairs. When ...


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