Iowa Supreme Court – Officers Must Quit Playing Word Games

November 21, 2014 – Iowa Supreme Court rules that an arresting officer must fully and fairly advise an arrested person of their right to a privileged and confidential consultation with their attorney if the attorney will come to the station to meet with them in person.

In State v. Hellstern, a case handled by the attorneys at GRL Law, the Iowa Supreme Court again reiterated the rule that police officers may not play word games with people they arrest when it comes to the individual’s right to counsel under Iowa law.  Iowa Code section 804.20 guarantees an arrested person the legal right to call, consult and see an attorney, family member or both, once they arrive at the place of detention.  In Hellstern, the arrestee requested privacy during his phone call with his attorney.  The Ankeny police officer would not give him privacy and instead of telling him that he could have privacy if his attorney came to the station, the officer merely told him he could not have privacy “on the phone.”  The Iowa Supreme Court concluded that the officer broke the law by playing word games because he should have advised the arrestee of his right to a private consultation if his attorney came to the station to meet with him in person.  Because the officer broke the law, the breath test result obtained after that violation cannot be used against the defendant.

GRL Law also argued on the appeal that the Iowa Constitution also guaranteed an arrested person the right to a privileged and private consultation with an attorney via telephone.  However, because the Iowa Supreme Court concluded that the officer broke the law by not fully advising the arrestee of his statutory right, they did not have to reach that issue to resolve the case.  In an interesting special concurrence though, Chief Justice Cady, joined by Justice Zager, recommended that police officers be required to advise an arrested person of their statutory right to counsel immediately, as opposed to waiting for a person to make a request.  He stated: “To ensure a fair and neutral application of the statute into
the future, our prior cases should be reversed and replaced with a simple rule that a peace officer must advise every arrested person of the statutory right to counsel.”  This certainly leaves many issues open for argument in future cases.

To watch the argument before the Iowa Supreme Court, click HERE.