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Friday, November 12, 2010

4th Amendment Protections to a rented room

Today the Iowa Supreme Court issued an opinion regarding the suppression of evidence obtained in the search of a residence and a rented room inside. The renter claimed the officers exceeded the scope of the search warrant by searching his rented room where he maintained an expectation of privacy under the Iowa and Federal Constitutions.

"Fleming filed a motion to suppress any physical evidence recovered by the officers. Fleming argued that the evidence was obtained in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution. Fleming claimed the application for the search warrant was defective because it failed to establish the reliability and veracity of the informants. He also claimed the search of his bedroom was outside the scope of the warrant because he had exclusive possession of the room, and Iowa does not recognize a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule."

"Generally, the rights contained in the Fourth Amendment and the Iowa Constitution are “deemed to be identical in scope, import, and purpose.” State v. Groff, 323 N.W.2d 204, 207 (Iowa 1982). In evaluating claims under the Iowa Constitution, the United States Supreme Court interpretation of a parallel federal constitutional provision may be persuasive authority, but is no more binding on this court on the state constitutional issue than the cases of other state supreme courts. We jealously reserve the right to interpret our state constitution in a fashion that provides greater protection. State v. Cline, 617 N.W.2d 277, 284–85 (Iowa 2000) (“[A]lthough this court cannot interpret the Iowa Constitution to provide less protection than that provided by the United States Constitution, the court is free to interpret our constitution as providing greater protection for our citizens’ constitutional rights.”), overruled on other grounds by Turner, 630 N.W.2d at 606 n. 2; see also Graves v. State, 708 So. 2d 858, 861 (Miss. 1997) (declaring the state constitution provides greater protection of an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy than that provided under the federal law)."

In reversing and remanding with an order that the evidence be suppressed, the court explained:

"We conclude that under our state constitution Fleming had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his bedroom, and the officers violated that interest by searching his bedroom without obtaining a warrant supported by probable cause authorizing a search of that area. As a result, the evidence seized from Fleming during the search must be excluded from trial. The decision of the court of appeals is vacated and the district court judgment reversed. We remand for further proceedings.

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