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Iowa Justices Limit Warrantless Searches Inside Cars

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Great news in regard to restriction of unreasonable police power:

Iowa Justices Limit Warrantless Searches Inside Cars

Ryan J. Foley, Associated Press 6:41 p.m. CDT June 30, 2015

A divided Iowa Supreme Court concluded its term Tuesday with a ruling that will often require police officers to obtain warrants before they can search inside suspects' vehicles.

In a 4-3 decision, the court outlined a new rule that declares officers can conduct warrantless searches of glove compartments and other places inside vehicles only when safety concerns are at issue. Once suspects are arrested and removed from vehicles, officers generally will need to get warrants to conduct a search — even when they have reason to suspect illegal contraband is hidden inside.

Dissenting justices said the rule would create practical problems for officers, who may have difficulty contacting judges to obtain warrants on nights and weekends. But Chief Justice Mark Cady downplayed those concerns, saying technology has made it easier for officers to obtain warrants at any time.

The ruling and three others issued Tuesday capped the court's 2014-2015 term, which featured more than 100 opinions and significant rulings on access to abortion, property rights and gubernatorial power.

Tuesday's ruling goes further in protecting privacy than the U.S. Supreme Court did in a similar case in 2009, when it declared officers could search a vehicle if the arrested suspect was "within reaching distance of the passenger compartment at the time" or they believed the vehicle had evidence linked to the reason for the arrest.

Dissenting Iowa justices argued Tuesday the state court should have adopted the federal ruling, noting the U.S. and Iowa constitutions have nearly identical language giving people the right to be free from unreasonable searches.

But majority justices said they interpreted the Iowa Constitution to provide greater protections for motorists. Warrantless searches generally aren't justified once a suspect is restrained outside the car but would be allowed in limited circumstances, such as when the security of an officer is in jeopardy or a suspect is within reach of contraband, they ruled.

The ruling stemmed from a 2012 traffic stop in Davenport, when an officer pulled over a van that had expired plates. The officer smelled burnt marijuana in the vehicle. The driver, Jesse Gaskins, initially denied having marijuana but later admitted that he had been smoking a blunt and gave it to the officer. Gaskins was arrested. The officer, believing the vehicle had more marijuana, directed a second officer to search the van for drugs and drug paraphernalia.

The officer found a small locked safe under the driver's seat, and used a keyring in the van's ignition to open it. Inside, he found a loaded handgun, several bags of marijuana, pipes and other items. A jury later found Gaskins guilty of possessing marijuana with intent to deliver and knowingly transporting a revolver in a vehicle.

The court ruled that the search of the vehicle and safe violated Gaskins' rights, and that the evidence must be suppressed. The ruling overturns Gaskins' conviction.

Dissenting Justice Thomas Waterman said the ruling "unduly restricts police searches and creates practical problems undermining public safety." Instead of conducting quick searches, officers will have to keep motorists and vehicle occupants waiting roadside or impound vehicles while obtaining warrants, he said.

Obtaining a warrant will be "both impractical and unrealistic" at times when judges aren't reachable, dissenting Justice Bruce Zager added.

"How many roadside stops occur after five o'clock? How many on the weekends? What about state holidays such as Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day? The point is, judges are often not available, and finding one may take significant time," he wrote.


The whining of the dissenting judges above is particularly revealing.

06-04-2007 = TSC stamps postal return-receipt for I-129f.

06-11-2007 = NOA1 date (unknown to me).

07-20-2007 = Phoned Immigration Officer; got WAC#; where's NOA1?

09-25-2007 = Touch (first-ever).

09-28-2007 = NOA1, 23 days after their 45-day promise to send it (grrrr).

10-20 & 11-14-2007 = Phoned ImmOffs; "still pending."

12-11-2007 = 180 days; file is "between workstations, may be early Jan."; touches 12/11 & 12/12.

12-18-2007 = Call; file is with Division 9 ofcr. (bckgrnd check); e-prompt to shake it; touch.

12-19-2007 = NOA2 by e-mail & web, dated 12-18-07 (187 days; 201 per VJ); in mail 12/24/07.

01-09-2008 = File from USCIS to NVC, 1-4-08; NVC creates file, 1/15/08; to consulate 1/16/08.

01-23-2008 = Consulate gets file; outdated Packet 4 mailed to fiancee 1/27/08; rec'd 3/3/08.

04-29-2008 = Fiancee's 4-min. consular interview, 8:30 a.m.; much evidence brought but not allowed to be presented (consul: "More proof! Second interview! Bring your fiance!").

05-05-2008 = Infuriating $12 call to non-English-speaking consulate appointment-setter.

05-06-2008 = Better $12 call to English-speaker; "joint" interview date 6/30/08 (my selection).

06-30-2008 = Stokes Interrogations w/Ecuadorian (not USC); "wait 2 weeks; we'll mail her."

07-2008 = Daily calls to DOS: "currently processing"; 8/05 = Phoned consulate, got Section Chief; wrote him.

08-07-08 = E-mail from consulate, promising to issue visa "as soon as we get her passport" (on 8/12, per DHL).

08-27-08 = Phoned consulate (they "couldn't find" our file); visa DHL'd 8/28; in hand 9/1; through POE on 10/9 with NO hassles(!).

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