Right to Phone Calls

Conflict within the Court of Appeals (see http://grllaw.blogspot.com/2008/10/court-in-conflict-iowa-court-of-appeals.html) regarding an arrested persons right to phone calls and the extent of an officers duty when a request is made was resolved today with the Iowa Supreme Court's decision in State v. Garrity http://www.iowacourts.gov/Supreme_Court/Recent_Opinions/20090515/08-0330.pdf.

Today, Justice Baker writing for the Court made it clear that anytime an arrested individual requests to make a phone call, the phone call statute (Iowa Code Section 804.20) is implicated and the officer must then advise the arrested person who he may call and for what purpose and they must then provide the individual with the opportunity to place those calls. Contrary to many Department of Transportation decisions and decisions from District Associate Judges across the State of Iowa, the purpose of the phone call is not limited merely to obtaining advice regarding whether or not to submit to chemical testing. According to Justice Baker: "One purpose of Iowa Code section804.20 is to allow the arrestee to call an attorney before making the decision to submit to chemical testing. . . The statute, however, doe snot limit the phone calls to that purpose. As long as the purpose of the phone call is a good faith purpose (e.g., not for ordering a pizza), the arrestee may chose to contact family or a legal representative for advice, or to have them inform his employer that he is not likely to be at work, pick up children from school, or arrange to have the dog let out." If the officer declines the arrested person's phone call request because it does not fall within the scope of the statute, he must then explain the scope of who the person can call and for what purpose.

It has been a long time coming but finally the Iowa Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that regardless of the purpose, if an arrested person asks to place a call, the officer cannot simply ignore the request because it did not fall within the rights set forth by section 804.20 rather it is incumbent upon the arresting officer to provide the person the opportunity to make the call or the officer must explain to the individual who he can call if he has requested to call someone other than an attorney or family member. It is clear that a request to place a call, regardless of the purpose, triggers the statute and puts the obligation on the officer to ensure compliance.