from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Patrick H.
State appeals from the grant of a motion to suppress.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellant.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and
Ashley Stewart, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellee.
Considered by Bower, C.J., and May and Greer, JJ.
decide if the district court properly granted a motion to
suppress evidence. The State argues the automobile exception
applies to the warrantless search of the vehicle Jesus
Delgado-Jimenez drove. We find the State established the
necessary probable cause and exigent circumstances to justify
the automobile exception. As a result, we reverse the
district court and remand for further proceedings.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
after midnight on November 27, 2018, Officer Josh Tyler with
the Sioux City Police Department noticed a Chrysler vehicle
that was running while parked several feet from the curb with
no one in the area. Aware of a rash of stolen vehicles in the
area, he ran a vehicle registration check that revealed it
was registered to an address in a different part of the city.
Tyler, suspecting the Chrysler was stolen or otherwise
involved in criminal activity, started to observe it. Someone
soon entered the Chrysler and drove away. Officer Tyler
followed in his marked patrol vehicle. The Chrysler turned
into a parking lot and-without stopping-turned back onto the
same street to begin driving behind Officer Tyler. When
Officer Tyler stopped at a red light, the Chrysler turned
into a convenience store lot just before the light and
stopped at a gas pump. Still suspicious, Officer Tyler called
for assistance from Officer Michael Sitzman, a certified
drug-sniffing-dog handler, and stopped to observe the
Chrysler. After five to ten minutes, the Chrysler left the
gas pump and turned onto the street, yet it immediately
turned back into the same convenience store lot and parked in
front of the store.
no apparent purpose for the return to the store, Officers
Tyler and Sitzman continued to watch the Chrysler. After
several minutes of no observable activity, they left their
patrol vehicles to investigate. On examination of the
Chrysler, they saw no occupants or obvious signs of concern
from the outside. Thinking they might locate the driver, they
entered the store. The clerk offered that a man just left the
store who was acting nervous. He told the officers the man
"left on foot" after he exited the store. After
calling for assistance to locate the man, other officers
spotted a man about one-half block from the store matching
the description. Identified as Jesus Delgado-Jimenez, Officer
Tyler knew about previous investigations of Delgado-Jimenez
for drug and traffic violations. He believed Delgado-Jimenez
did not have a valid driver's license, so the other
officers detained him.
point, Officer Sitzman used his dog to search for drugs in
the Chrysler, directing the dog to sniff around the exterior
of the vehicle. The dog detected an odor at the driver's
door. The other officers transported Delgado-Jimenez to the
store, and Officer Sitzman obtained the vehicle keys from
him. Once Officer Sitzman opened the driver's side door,
he immediately found a baggie containing a white powdery
substance, believed to be methamphetamine or cocaine. The
officers arrested Delgado-Jimenez.
State charged Delgado-Jimenez with possession of a controlled
substance, third violation, and driving while his license was
suspended. See Iowa Code §§ 124.401(5),
321J.21 (2018). On February 15, 2019, he moved to suppress
evidence from the search of the Chrysler. On March 18, the
court held a hearing on the matter. On April 15, the court
issued its ruling granting the motion to suppress. The State
filed a motion to reconsider, which the court denied. The
State applied for discretionary review. The Supreme Court
granted the application and stayed the district court, and it
transferred the matter to this court.