Iowa Constitution: Iowa Traffic Stop Law Changes

Police traffic stops are the subject of intense debate under the Iowa Constitution. Article 1 Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution is almost identical to the 4th Amendment. Both prevent unreasonable police searches and seizures. However, the protections guaranteed by the two constitutions are vastly different. The Iowa Supreme Court has afforded more protection to Iowans than the U.S. Supreme Court.

Article 1 Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution states:

Personal security-searches and seizures. Section 8. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable seizures and searches shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue but on probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons and things to be seized.

In State v. Coleman, decided February 10, 2017, the Iowa Supreme Court held under Article 1 Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution, that police cannot continue a traffic stop when the underlying reason for the stop ceases.

On August 18, 2014 police in Eldridge, Iowa were conducting random computer checks on license plates of passing motorists. When Coleman passed, the check revealed that the registered owner of the vehicle, a female, had a suspended driver’s license. Since, it was dark out, the police could not determine who was driving the vehicle. Upon conducting the traffic stop, the officer realized that the driver was male, not female. Instead of simply explaining his mistake and sending Mr. Coleman off, the officer asked to see Coleman’s driver’s license. Coleman license was suspended. Coleman was arrested and charged with driving while barred.

The initial traffic stop was validly based on reasonable suspicion. However, at the point the officer realized the driver was male and not female, the justification for the stop dissipated. At that point, the Iowa Supreme Court determined the only reasonable course of action under Article 1 Section 8 was to explain the mishap and send Coleman on his way. No further investigation of any kind could be conducted unless supported by independent, reasonable suspicion. Since, the officer asked for Coleman’s license after the justification for the original stop ended, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed his conviction. It is worth noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has never held the 4th Amendment prohibits officer’s from requesting a driver’s license after the reason for the stop has ended.

Article 1 Section 8 is consistently interpreted in a manner that affords Iowans more protections from unreasonable government searches and seizures than the 4th Amendment. Securing such an interpretation requires a skilled lawyer in the lower courts. Creativity and skill ensures that your issue has a chance to make to the Iowa Supreme Court. If you have a traffic stop case call 515.224.7446. Stowers & Sarcone, PLC is here to defend you!

Read the case and tell us what you think in the comments!

Leave a Reply