State v. Alvarenga, 22-0181

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. ENOC ALVARENGA, Defendant-Appellant
Docket Number22-0181
Decision Date17 November 2022

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

ENOC ALVARENGA, Defendant-Appellant

No. 22-0181

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 17, 2022

Appeal from the Iowa District Court of Dubuque County, Michael J. Shubatt, Judge.

Enoc Alvarenga appeals his convictions for enticing a minor and indecent contact with a child.

Martha J. Lucey, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Greer and Schumacher, JJ.



A jury found Enoc Alvarenga guilty of enticing a minor and indecent contact with a child. The district court sentenced him to prison for terms not exceeding ten and two years respectively, to be served consecutively.

On appeal, Alvarenga contends the district court abused its discretion in (1) denying his motion in limine to exclude evidence of his arrest and (2) imposing consecutive sentences.

I. Limine Ruling

Alvarenga's pretrial motion in limine sought to prevent the State "from introducing details of [his] arrest." He asserted evidence "that he resisted and/or attempted to flee . . . would cause the jury to improperly conclude that [he] was avoiding law enforcement due to the allegations stemming from the instant case" or might force him "to reveal a prior bad act." Citing Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.403, he argued the evidence, while relevant, was "substantially outweighed by unfair prejudice." At a hearing on the motion, the prosecutor noted that Alvarenga was arrested on a warrant on the underlying charges and his "attempt[] to flee" was evidence of his "consciousness of guilt" that was "something for the jury to consider." Alvarenga responded that admission of the evidence would put the defense in "an unfair situation." The district court denied the motion, reasoning the evidence placed the defense in "a difficult situation" rather than an "unfair situation," requiring a strategic decision on how to respond. The court stated trial strategy was an insufficient ground to exclude evidence that "would normally come in."


At trial, an officer with the Dubuque Police Department testified he was at a convenience store to check on an abandoned vehicle. He ran the plate, which came back to Alvarenga, who he "knew to have an active warrant for his arrest." Momentarily, he "observed [Alvarenga] walking toward[] [him] in the direction of his vehicle." He "grabbed onto [Alvarenga's] right arm and said, hey, you got warrants for your arrest and went to go place him into handcuffs." As he did so, Alvarenga "pulled his arms away" and both individuals "went to the ground." According to the officer, "[t]here was a struggle on the ground there for a second" and Alvarenga got away, and ran "along the front of the store again while [he] still had a hold of [Alvarenga's] shirt." The officer kicked Alvarenga's "feet from underneath him," and "he tripped and fell."

Alvarenga did not lodge a trial objection to this testimony. He did object to the offer of surveillance footage from the convenience store, citing "the objection that was previously made" during pretrial motions. The district court noted and overruled the objection, and the video was played. On cross-examination, Alvarenga elicited an admission from the officer that people could run for any number of reasons. He did not refer to the prior bad act that undergirded his motion in limine.

On appeal, Alvarenga essentially reprises the argument he made at the hearing on his motion. The State responds that he failed to preserve error.

"Generally denial of a motion in limine does not preserve error for appellate review." State v. Thoren, 970 N.W.2d 611,620-21 (Iowa 2022). But if the motion "declares the evidence admissible or inadmissible, it is ordinarily a final ruling and need not be questioned again during trial." Id. at 621.


We conclude the district court made a final ruling on the motion in limine. Although the court initially questioned how the State would admit evidence of the arrest warrant, it ultimately decided to assume "that there was a warrant [and] that [Alvarenga] ran." Based on that assumption, the court unequivocally ruled the flight evidence was admissible. See Quad City Bank &Tr. v. Jim Kircher & Assocs.; P.C., 804 N.W.2d 83, 90-91 (Iowa 2011) ("The court did not equivocate or state it would reconsider its ruling at trial" and, "[a]ccordingly, the court's ruling had the effect of a definitive evidentiary ruling."). Because the ruling left scant, if any, room for doubt as to the admissibility of...

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