Friday, February 19, 2010

Worth County Confidential: It Pays To Know Your Pals

State v. Pals, no. 09-0064 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 10, 2010)

This case presents the ever pleasing question of what amounts to reasonable cause to stop a vehicle in a new and unique way.

A Worth County deputy received word of two dogs that were running loose and causing damage in beautiful downtown Joice, Iowa, population 230. On arrival the deputy observed Pals' truck cruising the neighborhood as if looking for dogs. One dog, a Brittany spaniel was observed in the back of the truck. After ascertaining that the offending canines belonged to Pals, the deputy departed for Rice Lake.

On the way the deputy again observed Pals' truck going the opposite direction and pulled him over to talk about the dogs. The3 deputy had a discussion with dispatch about whether to ticket Pals for the city ordinance violation and the answer derived was "Well, if he's not being a jerk, give him a warning and move on."

A discussion ensued in the patrol vehicle over whether Pals had insurance and when that was concluded the deputy asked Pals if he could look in the vehicle, to which Pals consented. A look around the cab revealed marijuana, and Pals was arrested.

Pals filed a motion to suppress the evidence which was deniedn and Pals was convicted of possession. This appeal followed.

In a brief that was at a minimum 32 pages long, Pals argued that the initial stop was improper, but the court of appeals disagreed because the deputy had reason to think the violation of the city ordinance was ongoing because he had not seen both dogs in the back of Pals' truck.

That supplied probable cause to stop the vehicle even though the underlying offense was a mere civil infraction.

Pals also argued that his consent to the search was not voluntary because he had been effectively seized and was sitting in the squad car at the time. The court opined that the encounter was brief, cordial, and no coercion or threat could be found in it that would support the argument. Pals argued that the consensual search amounted to exploitation of prior illegal conduct on the part of police.

Pals lastly argued that because there was no reason to ask to search the truck, such a search was illegal. That argument foundered, because contrary to his argument, law enforcement investigations broaden their scope all the time. The deputy was within his rights to ask to search the truck under existing precedent.


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