Iowa high court: clearly ask for independent chemical test in OWI

Updated: 21 hours ago

On April 26, 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court decided State of Iowa v. K. Smith, in which the defendant challenged the Iowa OWI (DUI) Datamaster DMT result above Iowa’s drunk driving limit of .08 g/210 L breath.

The Defendant argued that the arresting officer denied to him an independent chemical test upon request following the officer’s requested test. The drunk driving statute in the State of Iowa requires that an officer provide to a test subject an independent chemical test upon request following the officer’s requested test. The catch is that the defendant has to affirmatively request it.

The court parsed the language the defendant used during their arrest.

“More important than the form of Smith’s statements is the substance of his statements,” wrote Justice McDonald.

The Court reiterated its requirement that a defendant affirmatively request an independent chemical test—the officer need not offer it.

“Smith did not inquire about his right to take an independent test,” added the Court.

Instead, the court wrote, the defendant must make a statement that could be “reasonably construed” to invoke the right, citing an earlier case called Lukins.

The defendant in Smith believed he had asked about an independent chemical test but the court, in reviewing the record, including video taped recordings, noted that:

“Smith’s statements related only to testing in lieu of the testing administered at the direction of the officer. For example, Smith asked, ‘If I refuse, then do you take me to a hospital to take my blood?’”

This subtle distinction—an inquiry regarding what would happen if he refused versus a request for an additional test—does not trigger the requirement that an officer provide to defendants an additional, independent chemical test.

NOTE: This firm had no involvement in this case.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for OWI or other Iowa criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community or county, contact us for a free initial consultation. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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