Jon Hammond wins motion to suppress in OWI case

In January 2015, attorney Jon Hammond filed a motion to suppress evidence of an OWI (operating while intoxicated) gathered during a roadblock in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He argued it was an unreasonable search and seizure, which is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Section VIII of the Iowa Constitution. The Court granted the motion to suppress, ultimately causing the case to be dismissed and driving privileges reinstated.

Jon Hammond's argument included the following:

Probable cause exists to stop a vehicle if the totality of circumstances as used by a reasonable prudent person would leave that person to believe a crime has or is being committed and that the arrestee has committed or committed it. State v. Bumpus, 549 N.W.2d 609 (Iowa 1990). The investigatory stop of a vehicle is constitutionally permissible only if the officer who has made the stop has specific and articulable cause to reasonably believe that criminal activity is afoot. Circumstances raising their suspicion or curiosity are not enough. The officer must be able to articulate more than an inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or hunch of criminal activity. State v. Kreps, 650 N.W.2d 639 (Iowa 2002). 

The State bears the burden of proving by preponderance of the evidence that an officer’s probable cause to stop a motorist based upon information indicating that the law has been violated. State v. Tyler, 830 N.W.2d 288 (Iowa 2013). Law enforcement may also stop a vehicle based on a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed in order “to allow immediate investigation through temporarily maintaining the status quo”. If reasonable suspicion exists, but a stop cannot further the purpose behind allowing the stop, the investigative goal, as it were, it cannot be a valid stop. Terry, citing State v. Tague, 676 N.W.2d 197 (Iowa 2004). The State must show the officer was attempting to actively investigate whether a crime was occurring and that a seizure was required in order to accomplish that purpose. Terry.

Stopping a vehicle at a roadblock constitutes a seizure for Fourth Amendment purposes. State v. Lloyd, 530 N.W.2d 708, citing Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648 (1979). In determining the Constitutionality of a seizure the Court must weigh the gravity of the public concern served by the seizure, degree to which the seizure advances the public interest, and the severity of the interference with individual liberty. State v. Hilleshiem, 291 N.W.2d 314 (Iowa 1980).