State v. TAEGER

Citation781 N.W.2d 560
Decision Date30 April 2010
Docket NumberNo. 08-0861.,08-0861.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Todd Robert TAEGER, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa


R.A. Bartolomei of Bartolomei & Lange, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County Attorney, and Tyron Rogers and Heidi Van Winkle, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice.

This case involves a challenge by a defendant to the State's voluntary dismissal of a criminal charge for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. The defendant asserts that the dismissal was not "in the furtherance of justice" as it avoided a determination on the merits of his pending motion to suppress. If adjudicated successfully, the suppression motion would have allowed the defendant to invoke a statutory remedy and have the evidence of his intoxication excluded in the civil proceeding to suspend or revoke his driving privileges. Without an adjudication, the defendant had no grounds to challenge the introduction of such evidence in the civil proceeding. The district court granted the State's motion to voluntarily dismiss over the defendant's objection. Upon our review, we reverse the dismissal and remand the case for further proceedings.

I. Factual and Procedural Background.

Burlington police officer Brian Carper observed the vehicle of Todd Taeger stopped in the travelled portion of the street. As he approached the vehicle, Carper saw Taeger standing outside the vehicle, urinating in the street. Taeger showed signs of intoxication — stumbling, swaying back and forth, and having bloodshot, watery eyes. His speech was slurred and a strong odor of alcohol was present. Taeger admitted to consuming four beers. Carper administered field sobriety tests, all of which indicated intoxication. The officer then requested a preliminary breath test, which indicated that Taeger's blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit. Carper arrested Taeger. A Datamaster test administered after his arrest revealed a blood-alcohol level of .258. Thereafter, Taeger admitted to drinking ten cans of beer throughout the course of the afternoon and evening.

The State charged Taeger with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), second-offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2(1)(a) and (b)(2007). Taeger filed a motion to suppress, claiming that: (1) the State used a TraCS software system on the Datamaster that was not approved by the commissioner of public safety, and (2) the State could not produce a certificate that the officer was trained and certified to utilize the TraCS computer software on the Datamaster.

During the hearing on Taeger's motion to suppress, the State moved to voluntarily dismiss the OWI charge. In the written motion to dismiss, the State declared, "While there was probable cause for the arrest, the State does not believe it has sufficient evidence to establish a prima facia case at trial." The defense resisted the dismissal, asserting that: (1) the court should address his motion to suppress first, (2) under our rules of criminal procedure, the State has the burden of stipulating why it was seeking to dismiss the charge, (3) cutting off the motion to suppress improperly prevented him from excluding evidence in the subsequent civil proceeding, and (4) because he was charged with second-offense OWI, an aggravated misdemeanor, the State could refile the charges.

The State at this point conceded to a dismissal with prejudice. Citing our recent decision in State v. Abrahamson, 746 N.W.2d 270 (Iowa 2008), the district court asked why dismissal would be in the furtherance of justice. The State responded:

Your Honor, there have been facts come sic to light to the State that has made the State fully aware the State cannot proceed forth on these charges. It just is factly sic impossible, so the State is conceding or asking to dismiss the charges at this time against the defendant and have them be with prejudice.

The State further conceded that the officer was not properly certified, but would make no concession in regard to the use of the TraCS system.

At this point, the district court inquired as to the impact of the motion to dismiss on the license revocation proceeding. The defense responded:

Administratively, this is the only way I can go after this. If you enter a factual finding that the test result would not come in because the officer was not certified, then he's entitled to get his license back. It's the only way he can do it at this stage because it's the only way procedurally I can attack it.

In light of the defense position, the district court asked the State whether it was willing to dismiss due to the fact that the officer was not certified. Notwithstanding its prior concession, the State stated, "No, the State is not conceding he's not certified for the DataMaster." The court then pressed the State, asking if there was a specific fact that led to dismissal in the furtherance of justice. The State responded that it was only conceding that there was a lack of documentation for the TraCS system, so it could not go forward.

Taeger argued that the State's concession provided grounds to grant its motion to suppress. The district court, however, did not grant the motion to suppress, but instead granted the motion to dismiss, stating:

I'll show it dismissed. I think there's been at least compliance with the Supreme Court decision; there's been — The State's reasons are set forth here today. They are on the record, and I think that complies with it. I'll take that as being in the interest of justice since they believe they cannot prove the case.

The district court entered a written order dismissing the charge with prejudice. Taeger appealed. This court granted discretionary review.

II. Standard of Review.

The parties disagree on this court's standard of review. Taeger asserts that to the extent he has raised constitutional issues, review is de novo. Further, Taeger asserts that the question of whether the State complied with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(1) should be reviewed for correction of errors at law. The State, on the other hand, asserts that this court reviews whether a dismissal was "in the furtherance of justice" under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(1) for an abuse of discretion.

It is well-established that this court's review of constitutional issues is de novo. See, e.g., State v. Lyman, 776 N.W.2d 865, 873 (Iowa 2010). Upon our review of the briefing, however, we conclude any due process challenge has not been adequately raised on appeal. While Taeger notes, "It requires no citation that notice and an opportunity to be heard is the essence of the concept of both procedural and substantive due process," there is no discussion of how Taeger was deprived of notice and an opportunity to be heard. A simple statement of a principle of law in a brief, without more, is not enough to raise an issue for this court's review. City of Clinton v. Loeffelholz, 448 N.W.2d 308, 311-12 (Iowa 1989).

On the issue of the proper standard of review under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(1), there are two components. The first question — whether the statement of reasons for dismissal complied with the rule — is a question of law. State v. Sanders, 623 N.W.2d 858, 859-60 (Iowa 2001); Hasselman v. Hasselman, 596 N.W.2d 541, 543 (Iowa 1999). If the stated reasons are legally sufficient, the second question is whether dismissal was "in the furtherance of justice." This later determination is reviewable for an abuse of discretion. State v. Brumage, 435 N.W.2d 337, 341 (Iowa 1989). This court "`will not find an abuse of discretion unless the defendant shows that the trial court's discretion was exercised on grounds clearly untenable or clearly unreasonable.'" State v. Henderson, 537 N.W.2d 763, 766 (Iowa 1995) (quoting State v. Knox, 464 N.W.2d 445, 446 (Iowa 1990)).

III. Discussion.

Resolution of this case is contingent on the interplay between chapter 321J and our rules of criminal procedure. The history and policy supporting each doctrine will be addressed in turn.

A. Chapter 321J. Entitled "Operating While Intoxicated," Iowa Code chapter 321J is a comprehensive chapter detailing both criminal and civil OWI proceedings. Section 321J.2, for example, sets forth the elements and penalties for the crime of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, while sections 321J.9 and.12 suspend or revoke a person's driver's license based upon a blood-alcohol test in excess of the legal limit or a refusal to submit to a blood-alcohol test. Under chapter 321J, therefore, an individual suspected of OWI is subject to two different proceedings — the criminal charge and the civil license revocation before the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT).

This court addressed the intersection of criminal OWI proceedings and the civil, administrative license hearings in Severson v. Sueppel, 260 Iowa 1169, 152 N.W.2d 281 (1967). In Severson, this court noted that although the two proceedings arise out of the same conduct, they proceed independently of the other. Severson, 260 Iowa at 1176, 152 N.W.2d at 285. Therefore, "acquittal of the criminal charge of operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated did not preclude revocation of plaintiff's driver's license." Id.

The divorce between the two proceedings was reaffirmed in Westendorf v. Iowa Department of Transportation, 400 N.W.2d 553 (Iowa 1987). In Westendorf, the issue was whether evidence obtained in violation of the constitution was admissible in the civil license proceeding, even if the same evidence was inadmissible in the parallel criminal proceeding. Westendorf, 400 N.W.2d at 556. Using a cost-benefit analysis, this court determined that the exclusionary rule did not apply in the license proceeding, thereby allowing the introduction of evidence in the civil proceeding that was suppressed in the...

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