State v. Pettijohn

Decision Date30 June 2017
Docket NumberNo. 14-0830,14-0830
Citation899 N.W.2d 1
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Dale Dean PETTIJOHN Jr., Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Grant C. Gangestad of Gourley, Rehkemper & Lindholm, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Heather R. Quick (until withdrawal), Kevin Cmelik and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorneys General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Jordan Roling, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

WIGGINS, Justice.

The defendant moved to suppress all evidence obtained after an officer seized the boat he was operating, including the results of a breath test he submitted to after an officer invoked the implied-consent procedure set forth in Iowa Code chapter 462A (2013). The district court denied the motion to suppress, concluding the seizure was justified by the community-caretaking exception to the warrant requirement and the administration of the warrantless breath test violated neither the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution nor article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. The court convicted the defendant following a bench trial on the minutes, and the defendant appealed. We retained the appeal but held the matter in abeyance pending a decision from the United States Supreme Court.

We conclude the seizure of the boat the defendant was operating violated neither the Fourth Amendment nor article I, section 8 because the officer who stopped the defendant had a reasonable, articulable suspicion he was committing a crime. However, because we also conclude the administration of the warrantless breath test violated article I, section 8, we reverse the judgment of the district court and remand the case for a new trial.

I. Background Facts.

On August 18, 2013, at approximately 5:00 p.m., Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Water Patrol Officer William Wineland observed Dale Dean Pettijohn Jr. operating a rented pontoon boat in the no-wake zone of Saylorville Lake in Polk County, a manmade reservoir created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and fed by the Des Moines River. At the time, Pettijohn was operating the boat at an appropriate speed and was not swerving or steering erratically. However, Officer Wineland noticed a female passenger sitting on a sundeck located at the rear of the boat with her feet dangling over its back edge near the motor.

Because he had worked as a water patrol officer for many years, Officer Wineland was familiar with the location of the propellers on the rental boats at Saylorville Lake. He knew there was no guard or housing around the propeller on the rented pontoon boat Pettijohn was operating. Having previously witnessed severe injuries and even deaths resulting from people falling off boats and getting entangled in the propeller, Officer Wineland believed the position of the female passenger on Pettijohn's boat posed a danger to her safety.

As a water patrol officer for the DNR, Officer Wineland had authority to investigate and enforce violations of the law amounting to simple misdemeanors, but not serious misdemeanors. Officer Wineland suspected Pettijohn was committing a simple misdemeanor by operating the pontoon boat in violation of section 462A.12(1) of the Iowa Code, which provides, "No person shall operate any vessel ... in a careless, reckless or negligent manner so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person." Iowa Code § 462A.12(1) ; id. § 462A.13 (stating offenses defined in chapter 462A of the Code constitute simple misdemeanors unless otherwise specifically provided).

Officer Wineland decided to stop Pettijohn to inform him that permitting the passenger to sit so close to the unguarded propeller while the boat was in motion posed a danger to her safety. Pettijohn complied with Officer Wineland's request to stop the boat.

While speaking with Pettijohn, Officer Wineland observed that he had bloodshot eyes. He also noticed there were two coolers on the boat. During their conversation, it appeared to Officer Wineland that Pettijohn was nervous and avoided making eye contact with him. These observations led Officer Wineland to suspect Pettijohn had been operating the boat while intoxicated in violation of Iowa Code section 462A.14(1), a serious misdemeanor he was without authority to investigate. See id. § 462A.14(2). Consequently, Officer Wineland sought assistance from conservation officers authorized to investigate serious misdemeanor offenses. In the meantime, Officer Wineland instructed Pettijohn to proceed to the dock to await the arrival of the conservation officers and issued him a warning citation for the negligent operation of the boat. When Officer Wineland explained the reason for the citation, Pettijohn indicated he had not realized a passenger was sitting on the bow of the boat and would not have allowed her to remain there had he known of her location.

Conservation Officers Dakota Drish and Matt Bruner soon arrived. Once aboard Pettijohn's boat, Officer Drish detected the distinct odor of an alcoholic beverage and observed that Pettijohn was slurring his speech and had bloodshot eyes. Based on these observations Officer Drish administered field sobriety tests, the results of which led him to conclude that Pettijohn had been operating the boat while intoxicated. Officer Drish placed Pettijohn in handcuffs, and the officers transported him to the Polk City Police Department.

At the station, Officer Drish read to Pettijohn from a standard form entitled "Implied Consent Advisory" in order to inform him of the consequences of failing a breath test or refusing to consent to a breath test. Pettijohn signed his name in a box labeled "confirmation signature" on the bottom of the form. Minutes later, Officer Drish formally requested a sample of his breath. Pettijohn checked a box on a separate form entitled "Notice and Request Under Iowa Code Section 462A.14," indicating he consented to provide a breath sample upon being requested to do so after having been read the implied-consent advisory. Pettijohn then submitted to a breath test, which indicated his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .194.

The State charged Pettijohn with operating a motorboat while under the influence in violation of Iowa Code section 462A.14(1). Because this was Pettijohn's first offense, the violation constituted a serious misdemeanor criminal offense. See id. § 462A.14(2).

II. Prior Proceedings.

Before the district court, Pettijohn moved to suppress all evidence obtained after Officer Wineland stopped his boat, arguing the stop violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. Pettijohn also moved to suppress the results of the breath test, arguing the implied-consent procedure he was subjected to violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution because (1) it authorizes the imposition of a penalty for the exercise of a constitutional right to refuse a warrantless search, and (2) a person cannot contract away his or her natural right to use the state's navigable waterways. Additionally, Pettijohn argued the breath-test results should be suppressed because the implied-consent advisory was inaccurate and thus (1) violated his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution ; (2) violated his statutory rights under the Iowa Code; and (3) rendered his consent involuntary and coerced in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution.

The district court denied Pettijohn's motion to suppress. First, the court concluded the stop of Pettijohn's boat was authorized under the Fourth Amendment and article I, section 8 because it was justified by the community-caretaking exception to the warrant requirement. Second, the court concluded the administration of a warrantless breath test pursuant to the implied-consent procedure authorized by the Iowa Code violates neither the Fourth Amendment nor article I, section 8. Third, the court concluded any inaccuracies in the implied-consent advisory read to Pettijohn did not induce or coerce his consent in violation of his federal or state substantive due process rights.

Pettijohn waived his right to a jury trial, and the district court convicted him following a bench trial on the minutes. Pettijohn subsequently appealed, and we retained the appeal.

Following oral argument, we held the appeal in abeyance pending a decision from the United States Supreme Court on the issue of whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits implied-consent laws imposing penalties on motorists suspected of drunk driving for their refusal to submit to BAC testing. See Birchfield v. North Dakota , 579 U.S. ––––, 136 S.Ct. 2160, 195 L.Ed.2d 560 (2016). After applying a balancing test weighing the degree to which blood tests and breath tests intrude upon individual privacy interests and the degree to which such tests are needed to promote the legitimate government interest in the safety of public highways, the Court held the Fourth Amendment permits the administration of warrantless breath tests, but not the administration of warrantless blood tests, as searches incident to lawful arrests for drunk driving. Id. at ––––, ––––, 136 S.Ct. at 2176–79, 2185. Accordingly, the Court determined state statutes criminalizing the refusal of a motorist arrested on suspicion of drunk driving to submit to a blood test violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at ––––, 136 S.Ct. at 2185–86.

Following the issuance of the Birchfield decision, the parties submitted additional briefs to this court addressing its implications for our resolution of this appeal. Pettijohn argues Birchfield does not resolve the question of whether a warrantless breath test may be administered to an individual arrested on suspicion of boating while...

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