Iowa Supreme Court confirms that the word “conviction” is a term of art depending on its context. In the context of an administrative Iowa Department of Transportation setting, which is designed not for criminal punishment but protection of the public, the term “conviction” is viewed more broadly, and can include deferred judgments. Hence, someone with a deferred judgment for OWI or eluding in the criminal context still can be treated just the same as those with a completed conviction, and the IDOT enhancements/revocations/suspensions/barments are fully applicable.

Read the case here

 

Iowa Court of Appeals reverses sentence of Ricardo Rodriguez and remands for resentencing. In order to qualify for a sentencing enhancement by utilizing prior offenses, those prior offenses must qualify as enhanceable offenses. In order to qualify as prior enhanceable offenses, “Each offense must be complete as to a conviction and sentencing before commission of the next in order to qualify for the enhancement of penalty.” In other words, “a defendant must be convicted of and sentenced on the first offense before committing the second offense for both to count toward the enhancement.”

In this case, Rodriguez had two prior drug convictions at the time he was found to be in possession of drugs a third time, but judgment was entered in both of those prior cases on the same date, not chronologically. Hence, the priors had to be considered as one prior, not two, and the case was remanded for resentencing.

Read the case here

Be Careful How You Park

The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional for law enforcement/police to seize drivers for parking violations.

These are the questions the court answered:

 

Is it unconstitutional for an officer to enforce a parking violation after he observes a driver illegally park her vehicle, leaving the vehicle sticking out of the driveway and into the road?

No.

If the officer smells marijuana and observes signs of the driver’s intoxication when he stops the driver to enforce the parking violation, is it unconstitutional for the officer to inquire about the driver’s intoxication when the officer could have enforced the parking violation by placing a citation on the driver’s window instead of stopping her?

No.

If the officer asks the defendant for her license while he’s enforcing the parking violation and discovers the driver’s license is revoked, is it unconstitutional to extend his stop to enforce that violation?

No.

Is there any legally meaningful distinction between a parking and a moving violation for Terry stop purposes?

No, not under the circumstances of the particular case – in which a vehicle parked illegally with part of the car on a driveway and part sticking out into the road.

 

Read the case here

Iowa Supreme Court rules that it is constitutional to stop a driver for potential improper use of a cell phone when an officer observes the driver holding the cell phone in front of his face manipulating the screen with his finger for ten seconds.

Read the case here

In the trial of a case of alleged wanton neglect of a resident of a heath care facility in violation of Iowa Code section 726.7, the Iowa Supreme Court has held that it is reversible error to introduce evidence regarding the standard of care in the nursing profession and to provide the jury with instructions related to that standard of care, for such created an unfair danger of prejudice and confusion regarding the proper legal standard, for the standard of accountability in the professional standard is not the same as the criminal standard of knowingly acting in a manner likely to be injurious to a resident.

Read the case

Iowa Court of Appeals rules that State should not have been allowed to amend a trial information during trial because the State essentially charged a wholly new and different offense, which was prejudicial. The State amended a charge of assault causing bodily injury, a serious misdemeanor, to  assault while using or displaying a dangerous weapon, an aggravated misdemeanor. The court held that a charge is different if it contained an element not found in the originally charged count. Because the new charge had elements not included in the original charge, and also carried a harsher punishment, the court should not have allowed the amendment. The Court of Appeals noted that even 1st degree and 2nd degree murder are wholly new and different offenses, even though they are contained in the same code section. Still, they contain different elements.

Read the case here

Iowa Court of Appeals rules that for malicious prosecution, the State must prove that the Defendant caused or attempted to cause another to be indicted or prosecuted for a public offense without reasonable grounds to believe that the person committed the offense. The Defendant claimed another person’s identity. However, the evidence did not support a finding that she did so in order to cause the person whose name she gave to be indicted or prosecuted. Hence, the conviction for that charge had to be reversed.

Read the case here

Iowa Court of Appeals reverses drunk driving OWI conviction and remands for a new trial, ruling that Iowa Code section 321J.6 was not followed properly. In order to invoke implied consent and request a breath specimen, there must not only be reasonable grounds to believe the person is operating under the influence, but one of six other predicates must apply. In this instance, both the State and the Defendant agreed that five of the six predicates were not applicable, but debated whether the Defendant was under arrest for OWI, another possible predicate. In fact, he was under arrest for interference, having been so informed. The Court of Appeals ruled that the arrest predicate required not just any arrest, but “arrest for violation for section 321J.2”, and under section 804.14, a proper manner of arrest requires that the officer inform the Defendant for what he is being arrested, and since the officer did not inform him that he was under arrest for OWI/321J.2 prior to invoking implied consent, the requisite condition precedent did not exist. Hence, the breath test was not required, and the jury should not be informed of the request or the refusal.

Read the case here

Iowa Court of Appeals rules that “firing at or into a building” charge does not apply to a patio or appurtenance, for a patio is not a building.

Read the case here

Successful appeal regarding an expungement of an old case for my client. Initially, the magistrate denied the motion to expunge, holding that an exclusion statute applied to local ordinances. Upon further appeal, the district court ruled in my client’s favor, holding that the state exclusion statute did not apply to my client’s conviction.

Iowa Supreme Court holds that in a murder case, if the Defendant raises the argument that the decedent committed suicide, past medical records that support that defense should be admitted into evidence, as well as allowing expert testimony and lay testimony regarding the decedent’s suicidal ideation and attempts.

Read the case here

OWI case dismissed! Review of the video revealed that there was an insufficient constitutional basis to stop my client’s vehicle. The State agreed, an unopposed suppression motion was granted, the case has been dismissed, and my client will not be losing his driver’s license.