The Iowa Supreme Court has overturned a 2016 Clarke County drunk driving conviction saying a traffic stop involved in the case was unconstitutional.
Deputies were investigating a car in the ditch at 4:30 in the morning and found the Minnesota drivers’ license of Cody Smith inside. Deputies says the accident did not look serious and they had a report of someone walking away from the car. A van drove by the scene as deputies investigated and then turned around drove away.
Deputies found the van was registered to the same Osceola address as the car in the ditch. They pulled over the van and found Cody Smith riding inside with a Steven Smith driving. Cody Smith was missing one boot, was muddy and appear to be intoxicated. He was later found guilty of first offense OWI. Cody Smith appealed, saying the van stop was unconstitutional and the evidence that found him intoxicated should be thrown out.
They Deputy says he made the stop of the van because of a concerned the person in the van may’ve been injured when the car went into the ditch. The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the deputy did not have a valid reason to stop the van and the stop was not constitutional. The ruling says those in the van clearly did not need assistance. The possibility exists that the driver of the vehicle in the ditch needed assistance and that the person in the van was looking for the driver, but it says “this is seemingly belied by the fact that the van left the scene, presumably after noticing the presence of a law enforcement vehicle.”
The ruling went on to say: “Given all the facts and circumstances we have recited, we conclude that the van stop was investigatory in nature. The van stop would have comprised an effort to locate Cody, not to potentially help him, but to investigate how he drove the car into the ditch.” The court overturned the OWI conviction and upheld Smith’s request to suppress the evidence from the van stop.
Here’s the full ruling: Smith-OWI-opinion-PDF