Capital Clicks

Did Iowa deputy tell OWI suspect that talks with his attorney would be recorded?

By: - April 12, 2021 4:48 pm

(Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa lawyer who lost his driving privileges after a drunken-driving stop is arguing that the arresting officer didn’t give him enough time to call his own attorney or allow him to speak with his attorney privately.

According to court records, Adam C. Manatt, 42, was driving through the south side of Brooklyn, Iowa, at about 3 a.m. on September 15, 2020, when Poweshiek County Deputy Joseph Meyer pulled him over for speeding and erratic driving. Manatt allegedly showed signs of intoxication and failed a series of field sobriety tests, prompting Meyer to ask him to submit to a preliminary breath test.

Manatt allegedly refused and, at 3:15 a.m., he was placed in the deputy’s car and told he could use his cell phone to place any calls or texts while en route to the jail. At the sheriff’s office, Manatt allegedly refused to have his blood-alcohol level tested and was told again he could use his phone.

Court records indicate the deputy then provided conflicting or confusing responses when Manatt asked about speaking privately with his attorney. According to the county itself, the audio and video of this discussion was recorded, and the recording shows Manatt saying, “I would like to call an attorney … Could I do that from my cell phone without being on camera, or no?”

“Yep, once I have verified that you have reached the attorney then I will take the camera away,” the deputy says. Later, he adds, “We’re in the jail so everything’s … always recorded. So I can’t … I have no control over it.”

Manatt then asks, “Is there a place I could talk to my attorney without being recorded?”

“No,” the deputy responds.

“None at all?” Manatt asks.

“No,” the deputy responds. “If he does answer, then I will step out of the room.”

Attorneys for the county say this exchange shows “the deputy clearly told the defendant that the exchange would not be on camera if he, the defendant, wanted to talk with his attorney.”

Manatt spent at least 20 minutes unsuccessfully trying to reach his attorney, placing five to 10 calls, according to both the county and Manatt.

Citing Manatt’s refusal to have his blood-alcohol level tested, the Iowa Department of Transportation subsequently revoked his driving privileges for one year. With the criminal charge still pending, Manatt appealed that decision to an administrative law judge, arguing that he was not provided with a “reasonable” amount of time to reach his lawyer, as required by state law.

Administrative Law Judge Alla R. Mintzer rejected that argument, finding that the 20 minutes and five to 10 calls fit the definition of “reasonable.” Mintzer also rejected the argument that the county violated Manatt’s right to speak privately with his attorney, ruling that “it would have been premature for the officer to explain that (Manatt) could speak to his counsel in private given that he had not even been able to reach an attorney by telephone.”

Manatt is now appealing that decision, and the revocation, to district court. A hearing on the matter has been scheduled for June 18.

Iowa Judicial Branch records show that Manatt has been a licensed attorney since 2004, although it appears that he does not practice criminal law.

In the criminal drunken-driving case, which is entirely separate from the civil case dealing with the license revocation, Manatt’s attorney is currently seeking to suppress evidence of his client’s refusal to take the blood-alcohol test. In both the civil and the criminal case, Manatt’s attorney is citing the county’s “refusal” to let Manatt speak privately with an attorney and its alleged failure to give Manatt a reasonable amount of time to contact a lawyer.

Iowa law requires the police to let an arrested person, “call, consult and see a member of the person’s family or an attorney of the person’s choice, or both. Such a person shall be permitted to make a reasonable number of telephone calls as may be required to secure an attorney.”

The law also stipulates that a person who fails a blood-alcohol test, with no prior revocation for drunken driving, has their license revoked for six months or, if there has been a prior revocation, for one year. A refusal to take the test results in a revocation of either one year or two years, depending on whether there has been a prior revocation.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.