Algona, Kossuth County, Iowa. Following a domestic disturbance, police stopped a vehicle based upon a 911 call made 15 minutes earlier. The call was vague with the caller merely complaining that the driver of a “yellow car” had been involved in a domestic disagreement, was “messed up,” and was driving out of town in a specified direction. Law enforcement stopped a yellow truck found driving on a county highway approximately 15 minutes after the call. The driver was ultimately charged with operating while intoxicated and hired GRL Law.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires that law enforcement have a legally sufficient justification to stop a vehicle. To justify a traffic stop, officers must have probable cause to believe the vehicle has committed a traffic violation or “reasonable suspicion” that its occupants are involved in criminal activity. Both of these legal standards require the stopping officer to point to specific facts in the case that justify their conclusion.
GRL Law obtained a copy of the 911 call and officer’s squad car videos. A quick review of the evidence made it clear that the stop was likely illegal. GRL Law challenged the legality of the initial traffic stop and a Kossuth County Judge agreed that a complaint that a driver of a vehicle was “messed up” was insufficient for a police officer to reasonably conclude that the driver was potentially intoxicated. The judge also agreed that words matter. A car is not a truck and a truck is not a car. Consequently, the caller’s description of the vehicle as a “yellow car” was not sufficient to justify the stop of a yellow truck.
As a result of the judge’s ruling, all evidence obtained as a result of the illegal stop was excluded from trial which amounts to the entirety of the prosecution’s evidence. The charge will have to be dismissed and drivers license suspension will be rescinded.