IA: Product of valid administrative subpoena could be turned over to prosecutors for other action

Defendant was a former nursing home nurse, and she was under investigation by the state for allegedly getting some government benefits she wasn’t entitled to. The state Department of Investigations and Appeals issued subpoenas for bank records. They didn’t find proof of that, but they found other alleged wrongdoing and provided the records to other authorities. Defendant’s motion to suppress those records is denied. The use of an administrative subpoena was well within the agency’s authority, and it wasn’t unreasonable or unlawful for them to turn the records over to others with potential jurisdiction over Medicaid fraud. (Her conviction, however, was reversed for admission of prejudicial irrelevant evidence.) State v. Fielder, 2019 Iowa App. LEXIS 310 (Mar. 20, 2019):

Our supreme court has approved the use of administrative subpoenas and “construed broadly the right of an agency to conduct preliminary investigations and issue administrative subpoenas in the field of public interest assigned to it.” Iowa City Human Rights Comm’n v. Roadway Express, Inc., 397 N.W.2d 508, 510 (Iowa 1986). Administrative agencies may investigate matters within their purview, “merely on the suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurances that it is not.” United States v. Morton Salt Co., 338 U.S. 632, 642-43, 70 S. Ct. 357, 94 L. Ed. 401, 46 F.T.C. 1436 (1950). Further, “[w]hen investigative and accusatory duties are delegated by statute to an administrative body, it, too, may take steps to inform itself as to whether there is probable violation of the law.” Id. at 643. Fielder cites no authority supporting the proposition that an administrative agency runs afoul of constitutional prohibitions on unlawful search and seizure when its investigators legally discover evidence suggesting criminal conduct and turn the results over to law enforcement.

In the absence of any authority to the contrary, we decline to grant relief on Fielder’s novel suppression claim. Fielder cannot show the bank records were the fruit of an illegal search because the DIA investigator had statutory authority to obtain the evidence through administrative subpoena and to share it with law enforcement. Fielder’s separation-of-powers argument also fails. See id., 338 U.S. at 642 (explaining agencies have the “power of inquisition” which is “not derived from the judicial function”). The district court properly denied the motion to suppress.

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