Breath Test Suppressed After Officer Fails to Explain Rights

Iowa provides a limited statutory right to speak with a family member or attorney before submitting to breath testing under Iowa Code section 804.20.  Most of the time, the driver must first trigger the right by asking for a phone call while in custody.

In this case, the officer instead volunteered the opportunity to make “a call” after invoking implied consent.  Thinking this was his one and only call, our client wisely requested an explanation.  The officer repeated his offer.  And then added the call could be placed either before or after chemical testing.

Here’s where the officer erred.

Section 804.20 permits a reasonable number of telephone calls to reach a family member or attorney.  Not just one.  It also allows a private consultation with an attorney at the jail.

The officer’s explanation failed to take these particulars into account.  Essentially, he misadvised our client of some very important rights.

This resulted in the suppression of a breath test result from evidence and opened the door for a favorable resolution under the circumstances.