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State v. Bertrand

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 18, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ALEXANDER WILLIAM BERTRAND, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Gregory D. Brandt (suppression hearing) and Carol L. Coppola (trial and sentencing), District Associate Judges.

         Alexander Bertrand appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated.

          Gary Dickey of Dickey, Campbell, & Sahag Law Firm, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

         Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and Schumacher, JJ.

          DOYLE, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Alexander Bertrand appeals his conviction for operating while intoxicated (OWI), first offense, challenging the denial of his motion to suppress. He maintains his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures was violated because there was no probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop. On our de novo review of the facts here, we find there was reasonable suspicion justifying the traffic stop.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings.

         At about 1:50 in the morning, Des Moines Police Officer Jeremy Engle encountered Bertrand's car travelling in the left-hand northbound lane of East 14thStreet. He noticed the car "was driving very slow" and "was weaving back and forth within his lane." Officer Engle followed the car for about ten blocks recording it with his dashboard video camera. The officer determined the car was going about 18 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour speed zone. Several vehicles passed Bertrand's car in the right-hand lane. When passed by a semi-truck, Bertrand's car "almost swerves into the semi and then overcorrects to the left." The car comes close to the center line a couple of times and touches, but does not cross, the centerline one time. Considering the car's slow speed, its weaving, and the time of day (about the time when the bars close), Officer Engle thought the driver of the car was either impaired or had a medical condition. The officer began a traffic stop of the car. The officer's investigation led to Bertrand's arrest for OWI.

         After being charged with first-offense OWI, Bertrand moved to suppress "the fruits of the unlawful traffic stop" arguing Officer Engle lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop Bertrand's car. After a hearing, the district associate court overruled the motion under both probable cause and reasonable suspicion analyses. In its reasonable suspicion analysis, the court determined:

The actions of Officer Engle in stopping [Bertrand]'s vehicle is justified in light of a review of a totality of the circumstances. In this case, [Bertrand] was driving 18 M.P.H. in a 35 M.P.H. zone. [Bertrand]'s vehicle continually weaved within its lane of travel for 10 blocks. During the continual weaving, [Bertrand] drove on the double yellow line divider and on the broken white lane divider. Considering the totality of the circumstances, those observations justified Officer Engle's belief that the driver of the vehicle was impaired.

Bertrand then stipulated to trial on the minutes of testimony and was found guilty of first-offense OWI. Bertrand appeals. He maintains there was no probable cause or reasonable suspicion to justify the traffic stop.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Bertrand argues the traffic stop violated both his state and federal constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. See U.S. Const. amend. IV; Iowa Const. art. I, § 8. Because he raises constitutional claims, we review it de novo. See State v. Tyler, 830 N.W.2d 288, 291 (Iowa 2013). De novo review entails an "independent evaluation of the totality of the circumstances as shown by the entire record." Id. (quoting State v. Pals, 805 N.W.2d 767, ...


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