State v. Garcia, 89-36

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation461 N.W.2d 460
Docket NumberNo. 89-36,89-36
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Juan Luis GARCIA, Appellant.
Decision Date17 October 1990

Page 460

461 N.W.2d 460
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Juan Luis GARCIA, Appellant.
No. 89-36.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Oct. 17, 1990.

Page 461

Raymond E. Rogers, Appellate Defender, and B. John Burns, Asst. Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., Amy M. Anderson, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Stephen J. Petersen, County Atty., for appellee.


LARSON, Justice.

Juan Luis Garcia was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver, based in part on evidence seized from his car and motel room. The court of appeals reversed his conviction on the ground that the evidence was seized illegally. The State applied for further review. We vacate the court of appeals decision and affirm the district court.

Members of the Muscatine police force had Garcia and his motel room under surveillance when they learned that he did not have a driver's license. They were instructed to arrest Garcia if they saw him drive. On the night of Garcia's arrest, the

Page 462

officers saw him place items in his car and drive away from the motel. Garcia stopped at a filling station, and the officers confronted him there. They asked for a driver's license, and he responded that he did not have one.

One of the officers asked Garcia to walk to the patrol car, and he complied. While Garcia was in the patrol car, an officer searched his car, finding a gun in the glove compartment. The search was then stopped. Garcia was taken to police headquarters, and his car was towed to the police garage. At the police station, Garcia signed a form giving consent to search his car and motel room. These searches uncovered cocaine and drug paraphernalia.

Defendant moved to suppress evidence of the gun and drug-related items. The trial court suppressed the gun on the ground that it was the product of an illegal "inventory" search but denied the motion to suppress the drug evidence obtained under the written consent.

Garcia contends, and the court of appeals held, that the initial search of Garcia's car was illegal, and any consent later obtained from him was therefore tainted as "fruit of the poisonous tree." See Wong Sun v. United States, 371 U.S. 471, 487-88, 83 S.Ct. 407, 417, 9 L.Ed.2d 441, 455 (1963).

The State responds that the initial arrest was valid because the officers had grounds to arrest Garcia, and did arrest him on the license violation. The search which revealed the gun was therefore valid as an incident to that arrest. New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 460, 101 S.Ct. 2860, 2864, 69 L.Ed.2d 768, 775 (1981). Therefore, there was no "poisoning" to taint the consent. It argues further that, even if the first search were invalid, the later consent to search was sufficiently attenuated in time and circumstances to render the consent valid. This is what the district court held.

It is well established that a warrantless search, with voluntary consent, is valid under the fourth amendment. State v. Myer, 441 N.W.2d 762, 765 (Iowa 1989); State v. Erickson, 362 N.W.2d 528, 530 (Iowa 1985). The burden is on the State to establish voluntariness by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Holland, 389 N.W.2d 375, 381 (Iowa 1986); Erickson, 362 N.W.2d at 530; State v. Lamp, 322 N.W.2d 48, 53 (Iowa 1982); State v. Folkens, 281 N.W.2d 1, 3 (Iowa 1979). When reviewing the issue of voluntariness, we make an independent evaluation of the totality of the circumstances and determine whether the consent was voluntarily given. In this evaluation, we review the evidence de novo. Polly v. State, 355 N.W.2d 849, 854 (Iowa 1984); State v. Hahn, 259 N.W.2d 753, 758 (Iowa 1977); State v. Ahern, 227 N.W.2d 164, 166 (Iowa 1975). The fact that a defendant is in custody, standing alone, is insufficient to demonstrate a coerced consent to search. United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 424, 96 S.Ct. 820, 828, 46 L.Ed.2d 598, 609 (1976); United States v. Frye, 548 F.2d 765, 770 (8th Cir.1977); United States v. Bazinet, 462 F.2d 982, 989 (8th Cir.1972). Likewise, the fact that defendant was read his Miranda rights does not in and of itself show that consent was voluntary. Brown v. Illinois, 422 U.S. 590, 602, 95 S.Ct. 2254, 2261, 45 L.Ed.2d 416, 427 (1975).

I. The Initial Search.

Because the initial search, which revealed the gun, weighs heavily on the question of voluntariness of the later consent, we will first address the validity of that search. Our court has stated the principles which apply to warrantless searches:

While the fourth amendment prohibits only unreasonable searches and seizures, warrantless searches and seizures are per se unreasonable unless they come within a few "jealously and carefully drawn" exceptions. The burden is upon those seeking to apply the exceptions to prove their applicability by a preponderance of the evidence.

State v. Bakker, 262 N.W.2d 538, 546 (Iowa 1978). Courts have generally recognized three exceptions to this rule:

"No warrant is necessary when the search and seizure, within prescribed limits, are incident to a lawful arrest; the warrant requirement may be waived by

Page 463

an informed and voluntary consent; and, third, existence of exigent circumstances may relieve an officer from the obligation to obtain a warrant if it is impracticable to do so."

State v. Shane, 255 N.W.2d 324, 326 (Iowa 1977) (quoting State v. Jackson, 210 N.W.2d 537, 539 (Iowa 1973)); see also Myer, 441 N.W.2d at 765.

The State has made no claims of any consent or exigent circumstances as to the search of the car. The legality of the search, therefore, depends upon the first exception, the search incident to arrest. The Supreme Court, in New York v. Belton, 453 U.S. 454, 460, 101 S.Ct. 2860, 2864, 69 L.Ed.2d 768, 775 (1981), held "that when a policeman has made a lawful custodial arrest of the occupant of an automobile, he may, as a contemporaneous incident of that arrest, search the passenger compartment of that automobile." Our court adopted the Belton rule in State v. Sanders, 312 N.W.2d 534, 539 (Iowa 1981). The initial question here, therefore, is whether the arrest was lawful.


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  • State v. Brown
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 28, 2019
    ...we recognized that the United States Supreme Court might be changing course on the question of pretextual arrests. In State v. Garcia , 461 N.W.2d 460, 463 (Iowa 1990), we observed, "The traditional response to this police tactic [of pretextual arrests] has been to suppress all evidence der......
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    ...a vehicle incident to lawful custodial arrest. Id. We have continued to apply this rule since we adopted it. See, e.g., State v. Garcia, 461 N.W.2d 460, 463 (Iowa 1990).As the majority notes, Chimel v. California, a case involving the warrantless search of a house after an arrest, is the le......
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    ...the individual and those of society.” Id. Our court has only cited Sanders on two occasions concerning the Belton rule. State v. Garcia, 461 N.W.2d 460, 463 (Iowa 1990); State v. Farni, 325 N.W.2d 107, 109 (Iowa 1982). In each case, the defendant did not question the continued viability of ......
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