3/28/2018Iowa Appeals Court Refuses To Allow Cop To Lie
Appellate panel throws out charges against driver after dashcam video undermines every claim made by the arresting officer.
Nathaniel Scott Akers walked free on marijuana possession charges earlier this month after the Iowa Court of Appeals caught the arresting officer telling too many lies. The three-judge appellate panel handed down the decision after reviewing dashcam video of Akers being pulled over for having "a tail light out."
Cedar Rapids police officer Nathan Baughan saw the green 1973 Buick LeSabre belonging to Akers pass by his speed trap on Fifteenth Street. Officer Baughan lit up his overhead lights after noticing Akers was not wearing a seatbelt. Instead of stopping immediately, Akers kept going for a little over two blocks so he could pull over in a legal parking spot. According to Officer Baughan, Akers honked his horn and got out with his passenger.
"They then exited the vehicle and started towards the address where it later turned out that the driver actually lived," Officer Baughan testified.
Except the video shows that never happened. Akers walked to the back of his car to show the officer that the tail light on his Buick did indeed function. Akers explained at the roadside that he did not need to wear a belt because his 1973 vehicle was not equipped with one. The officer "corrected" him, saying all cars after 1970 had to have lap and shoulder belts. The court never bothered to resolve that question because so much of the evidence provided by the officer was tainted that it did not matter for this case.
At trial, the video evidence clearly showed the Buick's tail light was illuminated, but one of the six lighting segments went dark when the car was in reverse -- something Officer Baughan could not have seen when he decided to pull Akers over.
"First, we find it telling that the defense -- rather than the state -- offered the video of the incident as an exhibit at the suppression hearing," Judge Nancy S. Tabor wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel. "Our own scrutiny of the video does not square with the officer's testimony that he could see rear-lighting glitches before he signaled for Akers to stop... the video belied the officer's testimony concerning Akers's actions after the stop. The officer recalled Akers starting to walk toward his house after the stop and pulling the marijuana from his own pocket; the video does not show either of those events occurred.... Because the officer did not have probable cause to stop Akers's vehicle, all evidence flowing from the stop is inadmissible."
The court ordered the evidence against Akers suppressed. A copy of the decision is available in a 150k PDF file at the source link below.