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Iowa High Court: Confirmatory Drug Test Required for Guilty Verdict

test tubes

On March 8, 2019, the Iowa Supreme Court decided State v. Jeffrey John Meyers. In Meyers, the Court reversed and remanded for dismissal a case where an OWI Defendant was tried and convicted on the minutes of testimony with only a preliminary, or, initial test, from the DCI that “indicated the possible presence” of “substances at levels equal to or more than the levels established in the Iowa Administrative Code.” Defendant had also challenged the reasons for his stop—a taillight violation—in an unsuccessful motion to suppress.

The Iowa Supreme Court noted that DCI promised a confirmatory drug test report would follow but it did not before the Defendant and the prosecutor tried the case on the minutes of testimony to a judge— an abbreviated trial designed to allow for appeal of the ruling on Defendant’s unsuccessful motion to suppress. The judge found the Defendant guilty. The Defendant appealed his conviction. The Iowa Supreme Court transferred to the Court of Appeals which affirmed the conviction. The Iowa Supreme Court took the case on further review and remanded the case for dismissal, stating that a confirmatory test should have been presented at the trial but was not. Double jeopardy prevents the defendant from being retried.

The Court recounted its holding in Comried noting that, in that case “[t]he state argued, and we agreed, that “‘any amount’ means what it says—if a test detects any amount of a controlled substance the any-amount element is satisfied.’” But the Court stressed that it meant a confirmatory test was required for conviction at trial.

In Meyers the court noted that the initial report only identified “possible” presence of narcotics.

“Thus, we are left with doubts about its accuracy, and those doubts mean the initial test falls short of establishing guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” wrote Justice Cady.

The Court, however, reiterated that the controlled substance prong “requires no specific threshold level of a prohibited substance” and that the first prong, e.g., “under the influence,” requires proof of conduct.

The court’s ruling means that a confirmatory test is required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial in the State of Iowa.

NOTE: David A. Cmelik Law PLC had no involvement in the Meyers case.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for OWI (DUI) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa county or community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consultation.

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