State v. Baldon

Decision Date19 April 2013
Docket NumberNo. 10–0214.,10–0214.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Isaac Andrew BALDON III, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

829 N.W.2d 785

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Isaac Andrew BALDON III, Appellant.

No. 10–0214.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

April 19, 2013.

[829 N.W.2d 787]

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Benjamin M. Parrott, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Kelly G. Cunningham, for appellee.

CADY, Chief Justice.

In this case, we must decide whether a provision in a written parole agreement that authorizes a parole officer or law enforcement officer to conduct a warrantless, suspicionless search of a parolee and the home, vehicle, and belongings of the parolee satisfies, by itself, the consent exception to the reasonableness and warrant requirements of the search and seizure clause of the Iowa Constitution. We conclude a parole agreement does not satisfy the consent exception, and we reverse the judgment and sentence of the district court. We remand the case for a new trial.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Isaac Baldon III was sentenced in 2003 to a term of incarceration with the state penal system following convictions for possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver and possession of a firearm by a felon. He was granted parole on October 20, 2008. On November 3, 2008, Baldon and his parole officer, Kevin Peterson, signed a parole agreement that contained seventeen standard conditions of parole and five special terms of parole. One standard condition, paragraph P, provided that Baldon would submit his “person, property, place of residence, vehicle, personal effects to search at any time, with or without a search warrant, warrant of arrest or reasonable cause by any parole officer or law enforcement officer.” The parole order directed that Baldon would not be released on parole until he signed the agreement.

To combat recidivist probationers and parolees, the Bettendorf Police Department commonly relied on paragraph P of the standard terms of a parole agreement to conduct searches of parolees in the city. Its officers were made aware of the consent-search provision and received training in conducting parolee searches.

More specifically, Bettendorf police officers implemented a protocol to check the Traveler Motel in Bettendorf several times each day as part of a routine patrol. The motel was known by the police department as perhaps the single highest crime location in Bettendorf. The Bettendorf Police Department has made numerous arrests at the motel, a total of 110 in 2007 alone. Most of the arrestees were probationers and parolees. The arrests most frequently involved drug offenses, prostitution, gun offenses, and auto theft.

Under the search protocol for the motel, the patrolling officer checks the license plate numbers of every vehicle in the parking lot to locate parolees or probationers. If a vehicle in the lot belongs to a parolee, the officer contacts the parolee's parole officer, either to obtain consent to search

[829 N.W.2d 788]

the parolee or to invite the parole officer to join the police officer in a search of the parolee. Both the police department and the parole officers are accustomed to using paragraph P as a basis to search parolees, either without suspicion or suspicion based on the high-crime nature of the area. The officer then contacts the front desk attendant of the motel to ascertain whether the parolee is checked into the motel and, if so, to obtain the room number.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. on May 25, 2009, Officer Dennis Tripp followed this protocol during his patrol of the Traveler Motel. The license plate check of a 1996 Oldsmobile showed it was registered to Baldon. Upon learning this, Officer Tripp called the shift commander, Sergeant Piazza, and asked him to contact parole officer Kevin Peterson.

Pursuant to the protocol, Sergeant Piazza informed Peterson that Baldon was at the motel. He also asked Peterson for permission to have Officer Tripp search the motel room and vehicle. Peterson gave his permission to search Baldon, but indicated he would like to be involved in the search and would promptly meet the police officers at the motel. Tripp learned Baldon was staying in room 29.

When Peterson arrived, Officer Tripp had been joined by Sergeant Piazza and another Bettendorf police officer. The officers collectively approached room 29 and knocked on the door. Eventually, Baldon opened the door. A young woman, later revealed to be a minor, was observed sitting on the bed. Peterson greeted Baldon and explained that the parole agreement authorized the officers to conduct a search of the motel room and Baldon's vehicle.

The search of the motel room and Baldon's person yielded no incriminating evidence. Officer Tripp then took Baldon's car keys and searched Baldon's car. He discovered a large quantity of marijuana. After Tripp read Baldon his Miranda rights at the police station, Baldon confessed he had received the marijuana in satisfaction of a debt. The State charged Baldon with possession of a schedule I controlled substance with intent to deliver, second or subsequent offense, under Iowa Code sections 124.411 and 902.8 (2009) and possession of an amount of marijuana greater than 42.5 grams in violation of Iowa Code chapter 453B.

Baldon moved to suppress the marijuana seized from the search of his vehicle under both the Iowa and Federal Constitutions. He claimed the entry into his motel room and vehicle violated the Search and Seizure Clauses of both the Iowa and Federal Constitutions because paragraph P of the parole agreement constituted involuntary consent. The State argued the search was reasonable because Baldon consented to the searches by signing the parole agreement. It asserted Baldon was still serving his sentence while on parole and whatever expectation of privacy he may have had while on parole had been waived. At the hearing on the suppression motion, Officer Tripp testified he conducted the search based only on the agreement. He testified there had been no complaints involving Baldon at the motel. Peterson, the parole officer, agreed the search was “completely based on [the] agreement and nothing more.”

The district court denied Baldon's motion to suppress. It found Baldon consented to the search by signing the parole agreement and that the consent made the search reasonable. It also found Baldon waived any claim of privacy.

Baldon then waived his right to a trial by a jury, and the court found him guilty of the charges. Following the imposition of sentence, Baldon appealed.

[829 N.W.2d 789]

II. Scope and Standard of Review.

“We review claims the district court failed to suppress evidence obtained in violation of the federal and state constitutions de novo.” State v. Dewitt, 811 N.W.2d 460, 467 (Iowa 2012). When presented with such a claim, “ ‘we make an independent evaluation [based on] the totality of the circumstances as shown by the entire record.’ ” State v. Kurth, 813 N.W.2d 270, 272 (Iowa 2012) (quoting State v. Krogmann, 804 N.W.2d 518, 522–23 (Iowa 2011)). “ ‘Each case must be evaluated in light of its unique circumstances.’ ” Id. (quoting Krogmann, 804 N.W.2d at 523).

III. Issue Presented.

The fighting issue presented to the district court in response to the motion to suppress was whether Baldon consented to the search by signing the parole agreement. Although the State also seemed to argue more generally before the district court that suspicionless searches of parolees did not violate the Search and Seizure Clause of either the Iowa or Federal Constitution because parolees have a diminished expectation of privacy, it never argued the State had reasonable suspicion or other reasonable grounds to conduct the search of Baldon apart from consent. While the record is sketchy, the diminished-expectation-of-privacy argument was, instead, tied to the State's consent claim to support the proposition that Baldon was aware he had little expectation of privacy after he signed the parole agreement.

On appeal, the State reiterated its claim of consent. Alternatively, however, the State argued the search was reasonable under a general search-and-seizure analysis because Baldon's minimal expectation of privacy was outweighed by the interests of society in managing parolees and preventing recidivism, as well as reasonable suspicion.

We find the State waived the general reasonableness argument by not presenting it to the district court in a manner that would have allowed the court to fully and properly address it. See State v. Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d 260, 291 (Iowa 2010) (recognizing that an argument not made on an issue before the district court is waived). First, the State made no argument that special governmental needs justified the search. Thus, we have no opportunity to consider in this appeal whether the State's maintenance of a parole system presents “special needs[ ] beyond the normal need for law enforcement, [which] make the warrant and probable-cause requirement impractical.” See New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325, 351, 105 S.Ct. 733, 748, 83 L.Ed.2d 720, 741 (1985) (Blackmun, J., concurring); see also Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 875, 107 S.Ct. 3164, 3169, 97 L.Ed.2d 709, 718 (1987) (holding that Wisconsin's operation of a probation system constitutes a special need beyond the normal need for law enforcement).

Second, the State made no argument to the district court that a balancing test under article I, section 8 would weigh in favor of the State in this case. For sure, the evidence at the suppression hearing was directed at Baldon's parole status and putative consent as the basis for the search. See Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d at 291 (holding that parole status alone is insufficient to justify search of a parolee). The State did not introduce evidence of any particular need for the parole officer to search Baldon, either predicated on individual suspicion, background information particular to Baldon that would have been known to the parole officer, or the general mission...

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