Dismissal to Thwart License Reinstatement

For many years, prosecutors in the State of Iowa have recognized that if a suspected drunk driver was able to successfully challenge the admissibility of their breath test or breath test refusal through a motion to suppress, their driving privileges would be reinstated pursuant to Iowa Code Section 321J.13(6). Therefore, savy prosecutors would recognize cases where the Defendant was likely to succeed on a motion to suppress and would simply dismiss the case "in the furtherance of justice" prior to the court ruling on the motion to suppress. The thought pattern of the prosecutors appeared to be, "well I know I will loose the motion to suppress so I just as well dismiss the case to preclude the Defendant from reinstating their driving privileges." This manuever by the prosecutors did effectively remove the possibility of reinstating driving privileges of Defendants who would have likely prevailed on their motion to suppress.

Today the Iowa Supreme Court disapproved of this procedure and held that "to allow prosecutors to dismiss criminal cases while motions to suppress are pending in order to ensure that section 321J.13(6) is not triggered would be to sanction a manipulation that is not 'in the furtherance of justice' in light of the clear legislative direction." State v. Tageger, (08-0861)filed April 30, 2010. In other words, where the defense has a pending motion to suppress, the prosecutor cannot simply dismiss the case to preclude the Defendant from reigning the benefits of reinstating his license following a successful motion to suppress as provided by Iowa Code Section 321J.13(6). The Court concluded that "once a motion to suppress has been filed, dismissal under [Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure] 2.33(1) will only be 'in the furtherance of justice' when the State articulates grounds for dismissal independant of those raised in the motion to suppress."

This ruling is profound in the sense that prosecutors are no longer able to block reinstatement of driving privileges of those accused of drunk driving when the accused has suffered a violation of one of their constitutional or statutory rights. As it stood before, a police officer could unlawfully stop your vehicle, arrest you for drunk driving which would trigger the loss of your driving privileges, then the State would simply dismiss the criminal charges and you were left without any recourse to reinstate your driving privileges.

For the full opinion click here: State v. Taeger