State v. Cline

Decision Date07 September 2000
Docket NumberNo. 99-0412.,99-0412.
Citation617 N.W.2d 277
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Heather M. CLINE, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender, and David Arthur Adams, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Mary Tabor, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Stephanie L. Cox, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered en banc.

TERNUS, Justice.

The defendant, Heather Cline, was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (1997). She appeals, contending the district court erred in overruling her motion to suppress evidence obtained in a search of her person. We conclude that the challenged search violated the defendant's constitutional rights under the search-and-seizure clause of the Iowa Constitution. We also hold that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply under Iowa law. Accordingly, we reverse and remand.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Cline's conviction arises from the stop of her vehicle by Des Moines police officers who were investigating reports of suspected drug activity in the vicinity. After Cline's vehicle was stopped, a police officer searched her person and recovered a small bindle of methamphetamine from her jeans pocket. Cline was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. See Iowa Code § 124.401(5).

Prior to trial, Cline filed a motion to suppress the evidence found in the search of her pocket, alleging the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The court held a hearing on Cline's motion and the two officers involved in the incident testified.

The officers testified to the following facts. On October 25, 1998, two different neighbors in the vicinity of 1511 13th Street, in Des Moines, called the Des Moines police department to complain about ongoing drug activity at that address. The house located on the property was uninhabitable, having previously been damaged in a fire. In addition, two weeks prior to Cline's arrest, the police had discovered a meth lab inside the burned out building.

Two police officers responded to the neighbors' complaints about 8:00 p.m. (The record does not reveal how much time had elapsed since the police had received the neighbors' calls.) As the officers approached the property on foot, they heard a vehicle start. Officer Holly Glenn assumed someone was trying to leave the scene, so she ran around the house to the alleyway adjoining the premises in the back. (The other officer was delayed in reaching the back of the house by a large, barking dog.) Glenn saw Cline's van backing out from the rear of the property without its lights on. Glenn ran after the van and successfully stopped it in the alleyway. She then ordered Cline out of the vehicle, handcuffed Cline, "patted [her] down and searched her." During the search, Glenn found a bindle of methamphetamine in the pocket of the jeans Cline was wearing.

Glenn testified at the suppression hearing that she stopped Cline's van "[t]o investigate what was going on at the house" and because Cline did not have the van's headlights turned on. With respect to the search, Glenn testified that "[i]t was basically a search incident to citation." She later supplemented this reasoning, however, stating that "we knew we had traffic charges on the vehicle, and she just left a drug house. I wasn't sure what she had on her, what was going on, so I did a search and a pat-down." Glenn testified on cross-examination that she was suspicious and wanted to know what Cline had on her.

In the trial court, Cline argued that the officer's justification for the search—the traffic violation—was constitutionally insufficient because the United States Supreme Court has held that a search incident to citation is not permitted under the Fourth Amendment. See Knowles v. Iowa, 525 U.S. 113, 114, 119 S.Ct. 484, 486, 142 L.Ed.2d 492, 496 (1998). The defense asserted, therefore, that evidence seized in the search should be excluded at trial. Cline further contended that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule did not apply. See Illinois v. Krull, 480 U.S. 340, 359-60, 107 S.Ct. 1160, 1172, 94 L.Ed.2d 364, 381 (1987) (holding that if police officer relied in objectively good faith upon a state statute authorizing search, items seized in the search should not be excluded at trial); United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922, 104 S.Ct. 3405, 3420, 82 L.Ed.2d 677, 698 (1984) (holding that if a police officer relied in objectively good faith upon a search warrant in making a search, the fruits of the officer's search should not be suppressed).

In response, the State acknowledged that one reason the officer searched Cline was based upon the fact that the police intended to issue a citation to Cline. The State pointed out, however, that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Knowles, holding such searches illegal, was issued after the search of Cline. The State also asserted that the search was justified as necessary for the officer's safety, citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). Finally, the State argued that the circumstances attending the defendant's apprehension—ongoing drug activity on the premises together with the defendant's attempt to flee—justified the search.

The district court overruled Cline's motion to suppress, concluding that the surrounding circumstances made the officer's stop and search valid. In a later ruling on the defendant's motion to reconsider, the district court specifically ruled that the search was legal under Terry.

Cline was subsequently found guilty in a bench trial on stipulated minutes of testimony. After sentencing, she filed this appeal, challenging only the district court's ruling on her suppression motion.

II. Scope of Review.

We review constitutional claims de novo. See State v. Seager, 571 N.W.2d 204, 207 (Iowa 1997). "In doing so, we independently evaluate the totality of the circumstances shown in the record." Id. "Fact-findings underlying the district court's ruling on the motion to suppress are binding on us if supported by substantial evidence." State v. Cadotte, 542 N.W.2d 834, 836 (Iowa 1996).

III. Issues on Appeal.

A. Issues raised by the defendant. On appeal, the defendant continues to argue the challenged evidence must be suppressed because the officer justified the search as one incident to citation and, under Knowles, this reason is not constitutionally valid. Cline also contends that the district court's ruling on her motion to reconsider was in error because the search cannot be upheld as a valid Terry pat down. The State makes no response to these contentions in its brief, apparently waiving any argument that the search could be justified under Terry or as one incident to citation.1 See Iowa R.App. P. 14(a)(3) ("Failure in the brief to state, to argue or to cite authority in support of an issue may be deemed waiver of that issue.").

B. Issues raised by the State. Turning now to the issues addressed by the State in its brief, we identify two: (1) the officer had probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime would be found on Cline coupled with exigent circumstances; and (2) to the extent the officer relied on the traffic stop to justify the search, the officer's search was made in objective good faith, thereby avoiding application of the exclusionary rule.

The defendant appears to dismiss the State's probable cause argument on the ground that the officer did not justify the search on the basis of probable cause. The defendant's focus on the officer's stated reasons for conducting the search is misplaced. The constitutional reasonableness of a search or seizure is determined by an objective standard. See State v. Jones, 586 N.W.2d 379, 382 (Iowa 1998). Consequently, the legality of a search and seizure under circumstances such as those present here "does not depend on the actual motivation of the individual officers involved." State v. Predka, 555 N.W.2d 202, 205 (Iowa 1996); accord Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 812, 116 S.Ct. 1769, 1774, 135 L.Ed.2d 89, 97 (1996) ("Not only have we never held, outside the context of inventory search or administrative inspection ..., that an officer's motive invalidates objectively justifiable behavior under the Fourth Amendment; but we have repeatedly held and asserted the contrary."); 2 Wayne R. LaFave, Search and Seizure § 3.2(b), at 34-36 (3d ed.1996). Therefore, the State is not limited to the reasons stated by the investigating officer in justifying the challenged search or seizure. See Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 507, 103 S.Ct. 1319, 1329, 75 L.Ed.2d 229, 242 (1983) (plurality opinion) (holding that an officer's testimony at the suppression hearing that there was no probable cause and that the search was consensual or based on Terry did not preclude the state from arguing that the search was justified on the basis of probable cause); Predka, 555 N.W.2d at 206 (holding that probable cause, not the motivation of the arresting officer, determines whether the stop of a vehicle is valid). Our prior cases to the contrary are overruled. See State v. Wiese, 525 N.W.2d 412, 415 (Iowa 1994); State v. Rosenstiel, 473 N.W.2d 59, 61 (Iowa 1991); State v. Aschenbrenner, 289 N.W.2d 618, 619 (Iowa 1980). Applying the appropriate legal principles to the case before us, we conclude the fact that officer Glenn did not mention probable cause as a basis for her search of the defendant does not prevent the State from proving the existence of probable cause to uphold the search.

We will now discuss the issues raised by the State: (1) the existence of probable cause; and (2) the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. Although the district court did not rule on the applicability of the good faith...

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