State of Iowa v. Nicole J. Lacey

IA case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: criminal law.

State of Iowa v. Nicole J. Lacey. IA criminal law

On March 21, 2010, the Davenport Police received a report of two individuals prowling cars. An officer spotted two individuals who met the description, one of whom made a run for it. The suspect who ran was wearing a coat, which was later found hanging on a fence.

Nicole Lacey was later found walking in the area, wearing a t-shirt, despite the 20 degree weather. She explained to the officer that she was just out walking because she had nothing to do. The officer apparently didn't buy it, and placed Lacey under arrest. Lacey's phone rang, and the officer looked through Lacey's cell phone. The officer discovered a text message sent a few hours earlier from the phone which read, "let's go out and steal from cars tonight, because we need the money, and baby there is nothing else to do."

She was found guilty of third-degree burglary and appealed to the Iowa Court of Appeals. She argued that the district court should have excluded the evidence from the cell phone. The state first argued that the search was proper as being incident to a lawful arrest, and based upon exigent circumstances. But under Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014), the state conceded that the search was not proper under the incident to arrest exception.

The court went on to hold that there were no exigent circumstances, since there were no specific articulable facts necessary to justify the intrusion. Therefore, the court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial.

No. 13-1898 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 28, 2015).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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