CLINTON — District Court Judge Mark Fowler has denied a Clinton woman’s motion to suppress.
Fowler ruled on the motion to suppress filed in March by attorney Eric Dale on behalf of Jodi L. Williams, 37, 720 1/2 S. Fifth St. Williams is charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, namely methamphetamine, in excess of five grams, a Class B felony; failure to affix Iowa drug tax stamp, a Class D felony; and one count of possession of a controlled substance, heroin, third offense, a Class D felony.
According to the affidavit, around 7 p.m. June 10, 2020, an officer was dispatched to the 500 block of Eighth Avenue South for an unresponsive woman sitting in a vehicle. An officer arrived and saw an unresponsive woman in the driver’s seat. She was turning blue and her lips were blue, court documents state. The woman had a good pulse at the time but appeared to be suffering from a heroin overdose.
Officers began to look through bags near the woman to try to find identification. The Clinton Fire Department removed a black drawstring bag the victim was wearing. An officer, while looking for identification, located a gold and silver zippered bag. There were multiple bags containing suspected methamphetamine. The suspected methamphetamine in the four bags weighed over 53 grams, court records state.
The officer located a bag containing a brown, chalky substance that he believed was heroin. The suspected heroin weighed 1.07 grams. The officer also located a bag with a white and green pressed pill that was an unknown substance, one THC vape cartridge attached to a vape pen and a black digital scale with methamphetamine residue, court documents said.
The affidavit says based on the officer’s training and experience, the officer believed over 49 grams of methamphetamine is far more than a heavy user would possess. The large shards, packaging and other controlled substances found with the methamphetamine, in addition to the large amount of methamphetamine, indicated an intent to distribute the controlled substance, the affidavit says.
The officer called MercyOne’s emergency room, where Williams was transported by the Clinton Fire Department. The nurse said Williams left the hospital and told the nurse she had to leave before the police arrived.
The issue before the Court was whether the search by law enforcement fell under the community caretaker exception to a warrant requirement, the ruling on the motion to suppress states. The community caretaker exception involves an analysis of whether there was a seizure within meaning of the Fourth Amendment and if so, whether the police conduct was bonafide community caretaker activity and whether the public need and interest outweighed the intrusion on a private citizen, the ruling states.
It is clear from the situation that Williams was in severe distress, Fowler states in the ruling. Emergency medical technicians wanted to know her name, the ruling says. The information may have assisted them in gathering information for Williams’ care then or in the near future, Fowler notes in the ruling. The rummaging through her purse and bags was done to aid in the present and future care of Williams, Fowler adds in the ruling.
“Officers had tried a variety of ways to identify the unresponsive female,” Fowler stated in the ruling. “When those attempts were unsuccessful, they moved on to searching through the bags in or near the unresponsive female’s possession. Moreover emergency medical technicians asked the officers to search the backpack that the unresponsive female was wearing so they could get an identification. Clearly the officers’ actions were conducted in an effort to assist emergency medical professionals. I believe we want our officers to act in this manner in these situations. This falls within the community caretaker exception.”
A jury trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 2.