In an opinion issued on Friday, April 22, the Iowa Supreme Court held in State v. Hauge that a law enforcement officer was justified in requesting that a front-seat passenger exit a two-door vehicle in order to arrest a backseat passenger. The Court also declined to adopt a requirement that law enforcement officers advise individuals of their constitutional right to refuse consent to pat-down searches, and the Court clarified the test used to determine whether consent to a pat-down search is voluntary. Chief Justice Christensen wrote the decision for the majority, which was joined by all justices except for Justice Appel, who filed a dissenting opinion.

With a nod to Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild, Chief Justice Christensen opens the majority decision by setting the scene: “Late one summer night, three friends went for a ride in a two-door vehicle and headed out on the highway to look for adventure in whatever came their way.” This ride ended in, among other things, a traffic stop, a pat-down search, a methamphetamine possession charge, a conviction, and ultimately an appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court for Hauge—the front seat passenger.

The driver of the two-door vehicle in which Hauge was a passenger was stopped by a local police officer for speeding. A deputy with the county sheriff’s office assisted with the traffic stop. The deputy approached Hauge’s side of the vehicle and noticed Hauge did not initially acknowledge the deputy, instead using the light from the deputy’s flashlight to review a lottery ticket and then staring elsewhere and avoiding eye contact with the deputy. When Hauge was asked to produce his identification, the deputy informed Hauge that he was not being detained. The law enforcement officers learned that the backseat passenger had a warrant for her arrest related to a conviction for domestic abuse assault with a weapon. In order to safely remove the backseat passenger from the two-door vehicle to take her into custody, and due in part to the location of the stopped vehicle on the side of a highway where the driver’s side was facing the road, the deputy ordered Hauge to exit the vehicle. Hauge asked again if he was being detained, and this time, the deputy responded in the affirmative and repeated his instruction for Hauge to exit the vehicle.

Once Hauge had exited the vehicle, the deputy asked if he could quickly perform a pat-down search for weapons. Hauge responded “Yup.” The deputy felt a bulge in Hauge’s pocket which he believed was a methamphetamine pipe. The deputy ultimately found both a methamphetamine pipe and a baggie containing methamphetamine in Hauge’s pocket. Hauge was charged with possession of methamphetamine.

Hauge argued on appeal that he should not have been required by the deputy to exit the two-door vehicle in which he was a passenger. He further argued that the deputy should have been required to tell Hauge that he had a right to refuse consent to the pat-down search and, additionally, he argued that his consent was not voluntary.

Chief Justice Christensen first addressed Hauge’s argument regarding the deputy’s order to exit the vehicle, holding that the deputy was authorized to order Hauge to exit the vehicle under both state and federal precedent. The Court therefore held that the deputy had not violated Hauge’s rights under Article I, Section 8 of the Iowa Constitution when the deputy ordered Hauge to exit the vehicle.

Chief Justice Christensen then addressed both of Hauge’s arguments related to whether his consent to the pat-down search after exiting the vehicle was voluntary. Hauge contended the deputy should have informed Hauge that he had a right to refuse consent to the pat-down search. The Court declined to adopt a Miranda-type of warning in the consent search context. Additionally, the Court rejected Hauge’s request to apply a heightened “knowing-and-voluntary” standard for pat-down searches and seizures under the Iowa Constitution, instead applying the previously-adopted “totality of the circumstances” test. Hauge then argued in the alternative that even under the “totality of the circumstances” test, his consent to the pat-down search was not voluntary. The Court clarified the test utilized in Iowa to determine the voluntariness of consent to a pat-down search and stated that going forward, courts should consider the following factors:

“[P]ersonal characteristics of the consenter, such as age, education, intelligence, sobriety, and experience with the law; and features of the context in which the consent was given, such as the length of detention or questioning, the substance of any discussion between the consenter and police preceding the consent, whether the consenter was free to leave or was subject to restraint, and whether the consenter’s contemporaneous reaction to the search was consistent with consent.”

Hauge argued that the following factors supported a finding that his consent was not voluntary: the deputy’s projected authority, the setting along a public road, the fact that Hauge was never informed he was free to leave or refuse consent, and the lack of closure of the original purpose of the traffic stop. The Court disagreed, finding the deputy had merely asked Hauge for identification before instructing him to exit the vehicle, and further reasoning that Hauge had demonstrated he did not feel intimidated by the deputy when Hauge asked whether he was being detained. Additionally, the Court noted that the deputy had only asked once for Hauge’s consent for the pat-down search, and Hauge immediately responded “Yup” before setting his beverage down for the search to commence. The Court ultimately found that Hauge’s consent was voluntary under the “totality of the circumstances” test and affirmed the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress.

Justice Appel wrote in dissent and provided extensive analysis and discussion of search and seizure law in the context of consent searches. Justice Appel wrote in favor of interpreting Iowa search and seizure constitutional protections more broadly than federal precedent under the U.S. Constitution. He supported incorporating a Miranda-type of warning into the consent-search process, positing that “[i]f it is not ‘unduly burdensome’ to require that Miranda be given in the field after a custodial arrest, why is it unduly burdensome to advise a person in the field that they have the right to refuse consent to search?”

In analyzing the test for voluntary consent, Justice Appel’s dissent contended the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218 (1973) should not be followed by the Iowa Supreme Court. Instead, his dissent argued that the Iowa Constitution should be interpreted more broadly than the U.S. Constitution. His reasoning focused on whether the individual providing consent to a search has voluntarily “waived” their constitutional right to refuse such a search in light of what he calls the “inherently coercive” nature of requests by law enforcement officers to conduct such searches. Justice Appel then provided examples of multiple states—including Iowa—that have departed from federal search and seizure precedent under their respective state constitutions in the consent search context. He argued that Iowa should continue departing from federal precedent with regard to consent searches.

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