I am a farmer with a Diesel pickup. I was pulled over by the Iowa DOT to check a load of hay I was hauling. While he had me pulled over, he asked if he could check my truck fuel tank for off road Diesel(dyed pink). I consented to the check since I do not put off road Diesel in my truck. However, I asked him what would happen if I refused to let him check my tank. HE said I would have been issues a sizable fine for refusing to allow the inspection. I mentioned I thought that seemed wrong. A person should be convicted of a crime before he is fined. He looked at me as if I was insulting him. I realized it was best to shut up and let him finish his work.
My question is, how can I be fined for failure to submit to a search of my tank? I always thought law enforcement needed probably cause to get a warrant for a search of private property. The fact that I own a diesel truck and am a farmer does not seem to rise to the level of probably cause of a crime being committed. I would think they would not even be able to get a search warrant with no more probable cause than a farmer with a diesel truck mush less a conviction of an actual crime.
If I did get a fine for refusal to search my truck for off road, could I fight it in court. Refusing a search should not serve as proof of guilt. On what grounds could they convict me since they would have no proof I had off road diesel?
1 Answer from Attorneys
You pose an interesting question and there's no well developed body of law on the subject.
Iowa Code section 452A62(2)(b) empowers the DOT to examine the storage tanks of any person who possesses fuel upon which tax has not been paid.
My guess is that what you would be faced with would be a civil penalty if you were in violation-and of course, no end of trouble with the Department of Revenue.
Bear in mind that this is a civil matter, not a criminal one, so the usual rules concerning the probable cause and warrant requirements are not up to the usual standard.
I have not found a case where this exact issue has come up.
452A.62 INSPECTION OF RECORDS.
The department of revenue or the state department of
transportation, whichever is applicable, is hereby given the
authority within the time prescribed for keeping records to do the
1. To examine, during the usual business hours of the day, the
records, books, papers, receipts, invoices, storage tanks, and any
other equipment of any of the following:
a. A distributor, supplier, restrictive supplier, importer,
exporter, blender, terminal operator, nonterminal storage facility,
common carrier, or contract carrier, pertaining to motor fuel or
undyed special fuel withdrawn from a terminal or a nonterminal
storage facility, or brought into this state.
b. A licensed compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum
gas dealer, user, or person supplying compressed natural gas or
liquefied petroleum gas to a licensed compressed natural gas or
liquefied petroleum gas dealer or user.
c. An interstate operator of motor vehicles to verify the
truth and accuracy of any statement, report, or return, or to
ascertain whether or not the taxes imposed by this chapter have been
d. Any person selling fuels that can be used for highway use.
2. To examine the records, books, papers, receipts, and invoices
of any distributor, supplier, restrictive supplier, importer,
blender, exporter, terminal operator, nonterminal storage facility,
licensed compressed natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas dealer or
user, or any other person who possesses fuel upon which the tax has
not been paid to determine financial responsibility for the payment
of the taxes imposed by this chapter.
If a person under this section refuses access to pertinent
records, books, papers, receipts, invoices, storage tanks, or any
other equipment, the appropriate state agency shall certify the names
and facts to any court of competent jurisdiction, and the court shall
enter an order to enforce this chapter.
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