UPDATES & ANALYSIS

10.20

Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in one case in Denison Oct. 25

by Rox Laird | October 20, 2022

The Iowa Supreme Court will go on the road to Denison Oct. 25 to hear oral arguments in an appeal by the State in a case involving a defendant who successfully argued in District Court that the State’s breath test evidence in a drunk-driving prosecution is inadmissible because he does not speak English and did not understand the police officer’s implied consent advisory. [Go to On Brief’s Cases in the Pipeline page to read the briefs in this appeal, State v. Baraki.]

The justices will hear the oral arguments in the Donna Reed Theater in Denison at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25. A public reception will be held after Tuesday’s oral argument. The event is part of the Court’s effort to expose the appellate process to more Iowans. As part of this trip, the justices will meet with students at eight high schools in the Denison area.

In the case to be heard in Denison Tuesday, the question is whether Fethe Feshay Baraki knowingly consented to taking a breath test later used as evidence against him in the State’s prosecution of Baraki for driving while drunk.

Iowa law requires that a suspect give knowing consent before submitting to a breath test. Baraki, who is from Eritrea and speaks the Tigrinya language, claims he did not understand the officer’s recitation in English of the implied-consent advisory, and thus did not knowingly consent to the test. No Tigrinya interpreter was available, and Google Translate did not translate from English to Tigrinya.

The Woodbury District Court granted Baraki’s motion to suppress the breath test result saying that while the officer “did nothing wrong,” Baraki did not understand the implied consent advisory and thus could not give valid consent.

In its appeal of the trial court ruling, the State argues the question is not whether the defendant understands the implied-consent form but whether the law-enforcement officer used methods that would reasonably convey the implied consent warnings. The State cites a 2008 decision of the Iowa Supreme Court, which held that an officer must use “methods which are reasonable, and would reasonably convey the implied consent warnings . . . under the circumstances facing [the officer] at the time of the arrest.”

In response, Baraki argues the District Court correctly ruled the State failed to meet its burden of showing he provided knowing and informed consent. (The State Appellate Defender’s brief on behalf of Baraki notes that because Baraki does not speak or understand English, the legal issues argued on his behalf were explained to him through an interpreter speaking his native language.)

Following are the scheduled dates and times for future arguments to be held outside of regular oral argument sessions:

  • Des Moines: Iowa Judicial Branch Building, Feb. 20, 2023, 7 p.m.
  • Des Moines: Drake Law School, March 30, 2023, 9:30 a.m.
  • Perry: Perry High School, April 4, 2023, 7 p.m.

 

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