State v. Brown, No. 17-0367

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtCHRISTENSEN, Justice.
Citation930 N.W.2d 840
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Scottize Danyelle BROWN, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 17-0367
Decision Date28 June 2019

930 N.W.2d 840

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Scottize Danyelle BROWN, Appellant.

No. 17-0367

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Filed June 28, 2019


Mark C. Smith (until withdrawal), State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kelli Huser (until withdrawal), Kevin Cmelik, and Israel Kodiaga, Assistant Attorneys General, Brian Williams, County Attorney, and Charity Sullivan, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Rita Bettis of ACLU of Iowa Foundation, Des Moines; Russell E. Lovell II, Des Moines; David S. Walker, Windsor Heights; and Andrew B. Duffelmeyer (until withdrawal) of Glazebrook & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for Amici Curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa, and 1000 Kids for Iowa.

Alan R. Ostergren, Muscatine, for amicus curiae Iowa County Attorneys Association.

CHRISTENSEN, Justice.

930 N.W.2d 843

This case requires us to decide whether a motorist who breaks a traffic law may lawfully be stopped if the officer was motivated by investigative reasons for the stop. Around 12:25 a.m., a police officer observed the defendant making an improper turn and decided to follow the defendant. At a stoplight, the officer noticed the defendant’s vehicle had an improperly functioning license plate light and ran the vehicle information for the vehicle’s registered owner—who was not the defendant. The vehicle information revealed the registered owner’s affiliation to gang activity. Subsequently, the officer pulled the defendant over, which led to his discovery of the defendant’s open beer container in the center cupholder.

The State charged the defendant with operating while intoxicated in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2 (2016). The defendant moved to suppress all evidence obtained after the stop, arguing the officer conducted it in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution because the officer’s reasons for the stop were not the traffic violations themselves. The district court denied the motion to suppress and later convicted the defendant following a bench trial on the minutes. Consistent with precedent in Iowa and the vast bulk of authority elsewhere, we affirm the district court judgment because the subjective motivations of an individual officer for making a traffic stop are irrelevant as long as the officer has objectively reasonable cause to believe the motorist violated a traffic law.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On October 17, 2015, Officer Justin Brandt of the Waterloo Police Department observed a black Lincoln Navigator at around 12:25 a.m. in the City of Waterloo. Officer Brandt observed the driver accelerating at a yellow light and passing to the left of a moving vehicle before veering across the centerline. The traffic light changed from yellow to red as the Lincoln Navigator passed through the intersection. Officer Brandt followed the driver to another intersection, where he also observed the driver’s license plate light was not properly functioning. At the red light, he ran the vehicle information for the vehicle’s registered owner—who was not the driver—and discovered the registered owner’s association with local gang activity.

After realizing the registered vehicle owner’s gang affiliation, Officer Brandt decided to stop the vehicle. He activated his emergency lights, but the driver continued. The driver eventually stopped the vehicle after Officer Brandt activated his audible siren. Officer Brandt approached the vehicle and immediately smelled an odor of alcohol coming from the driver; he also observed an open can of beer in the center cupholder. The driver denied ownership of the open container but admitted to drinking prior to driving. Officer Brandt obtained the driver’s name and date of birth because the driver did not have a license with her. The driver was identified as Scottize Brown. Officer Brandt determined Brown was driving with a suspended license and transported her to the police station, where she failed several field sobriety tests and refused to submit to a breath test.

Brown was charged with a second offense of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, an aggravated misdemeanor,

930 N.W.2d 844

in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2. She filed a motion to suppress on January 15, 2016, claiming she was unlawfully subjected to a pretextual stop in violation of both article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution and the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The district court held a hearing on the motion on February 3, and it denied Brown’s motion on February 16, explaining, "Since there were traffic violations that were objectively observed by Officer Brandt, any subjective reasons that may have gone into his decision to stop the vehicle do not matter."

Brown subsequently agreed to a trial on the minutes, and the district court found her guilty on June 21. She was sentenced to incarceration in Black Hawk County jail, "351 days suspended, 14 days imposed," and to probation for one to two years. The district court also ordered Brown to pay a $1875 fine with surcharge, a $10 DARE surcharge, court costs, and attorney fees. Brown appealed on March 7, 2017, requesting that we vacate her conviction and sentence and remand her case for dismissal because she was subjected to an impermissible pretextual stop. We retained Brown’s appeal.

II. Standard of Review.

"When a defendant challenges a district court’s denial of a motion to suppress based upon the deprivation of a state or federal constitutional right, our standard of review is de novo." State v. Brown , 890 N.W.2d 315, 321 (Iowa 2017). We examine the entire record and "make an independent evaluation of the totality of the circumstances." State v. Meyer , 543 N.W.2d 876, 877 (Iowa 1996), abrogated in part on other grounds by Knowles v. Iowa , 525 U.S. 113, 115, 118–19, 119 S. Ct. 484, 487, 488, 142 L.Ed.2d 492 (1998). In doing so, we evaluate each case "in light of its unique circumstances." State v. Kurth , 813 N.W.2d 270, 272 (Iowa 2012) (quoting State v. Krogmann , 804 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Iowa 2011) ).

Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims are based in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Iowa Constitution. Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 684–86, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2063–64, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984) ; State v. Schlitter , 881 N.W.2d. 380, 388 (Iowa 2016). We normally preserve ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims for postconviction-relief proceedings. State v. Harrison , 914 N.W.2d 178, 206 (Iowa 2018). But, "we will address such claims on direct appeal when the record is sufficient to permit a ruling." State v. Wills , 696 N.W.2d 20, 22 (Iowa 2005). We review ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo. Schlitter , 881 N.W.2d at 388.

III. Analysis.

The United States Supreme Court has established an objective test to evaluate the reasonableness of a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In prior cases, we have applied this objective test when evaluating whether law enforcement violated a defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights by making a pretextual traffic stop. See State v. Predka , 555 N.W.2d 202, 205 (Iowa 1996) ; see also State v. Cline , 617 N.W.2d 277, 280–81 (Iowa 2000) (en banc), abrogated on other grounds by State v. Turner , 630 N.W.2d 601, 606 n.2 (Iowa 2001). Brown now asks us to take a different approach under the Iowa Constitution. For the reasons explained below, we decline to do so. We first address Brown’s constitutional claim, and then turn to her ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim based on an argument not raised during her motion to suppress in the district court.

930 N.W.2d 845

A. Subjective Reasons to Stop Motorists.

1. The Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. Whren v. United States , 517 U.S. 806, 809, 116 S. Ct. 1769, 1772, 135 L.Ed.2d 89 (1996) ; see also U.S. Const. amend. IV ("The right of the people to be secure in their persons ... against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause ...."). Under the Fourth Amendment, the temporary detention of a motorist during a traffic stop is a "seizure," which is "subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be ‘unreasonable’ under the circumstances." Whren , 517 U.S. at 809–10, 116 S. Ct. at 1772. Generally, a traffic stop is reasonable when the police have probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that the motorist violated a traffic law. Navarette v. California , 572 U.S. 393, 401–02, 134 S. Ct. 1683, 1690, 188 L.Ed.2d 680 (2014) ; Whren , 517 U.S. at 809–10, 116 S. Ct. at 1772 ; State v. Tague , 676 N.W.2d 197, 204 (Iowa 2004).

In Whren , the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that an officer’s "[s]ubjective intentions play no role in ordinary, probable-cause Fourth Amendment analysis." 517 U.S. at 813, 116 S. Ct. at 1774. In that case, police officers stopped a...

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53 practice notes
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...erroneous interpretation of the Constitution over the Constitution itself. Page 25Id. at ___, 139 S. Ct. at 1985; see State v. Brown, 930 N.W.2d 840, 871 (Iowa 2019) (Appel, J., dissenting) (stating where constitutional precedent is supported by "unconvincing rationale" and weak authority, ......
  • State v. Wright, No. 19-0180
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 18, 2021
    ...of parallel provisions of the Federal Constitution, we have a duty to independently interpret the Iowa Constitution. See State v. Brown, 930 N.W.2d 840, 847 (Iowa 2019). Our duty to independently interpret the Iowa Constitution holds even "though the two provisions may contain nearly identi......
  • State v. Thompson, No. 19-1259
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 5, 2021
    ...its full meaning."). We look at the "text of the document through the prism of our precedent, tradition, and custom." State v. Brown , 930 N.W.2d 840, 861 (Iowa 2019) (McDonald, J., concurring specially); see also The Federalist No. 37 , at 179 (James Madison) (Garry Wills ed., 1982) (stati......
  • State v. McGee, No. 19-1219
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 14, 2021
    ...the Iowa Constitution to track with federal interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Brown , 930 N.W.2d 840, 847 (Iowa 2019). Yet we nonetheless have a duty to interpret provisions of the Iowa Constitution independently, even when two constitutiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...erroneous interpretation of the Constitution over the Constitution itself. Page 25Id. at ___, 139 S. Ct. at 1985; see State v. Brown, 930 N.W.2d 840, 871 (Iowa 2019) (Appel, J., dissenting) (stating where constitutional precedent is supported by "unconvincing rationale" and weak authority, ......
  • State v. Wright, No. 19-0180
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 18, 2021
    ...of parallel provisions of the Federal Constitution, we have a duty to independently interpret the Iowa Constitution. See State v. Brown, 930 N.W.2d 840, 847 (Iowa 2019). Our duty to independently interpret the Iowa Constitution holds even "though the two provisions may contain nearly identi......
  • State v. Thompson, No. 19-1259
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 5, 2021
    ...its full meaning."). We look at the "text of the document through the prism of our precedent, tradition, and custom." State v. Brown , 930 N.W.2d 840, 861 (Iowa 2019) (McDonald, J., concurring specially); see also The Federalist No. 37 , at 179 (James Madison) (Garry Wills ed., 1982) (stati......
  • State v. McGee, No. 19-1219
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 14, 2021
    ...the Iowa Constitution to track with federal interpretations of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. State v. Brown , 930 N.W.2d 840, 847 (Iowa 2019). Yet we nonetheless have a duty to interpret provisions of the Iowa Constitution independently, even when two constitutiona......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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