Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Assertion of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination excuses compliance with forfeiture threshold pleading requirements in Iowa Code 809A.13(4)(d), such as identifying the source of cash. Claimants’ property was seized after a drug interdiction traffic stop. The State sought forfeiture of the impounded vehicle and money discovered in a hidden compartment after issuance of a search warrant. Claimants sought return of the cash and vehicle but their pleadings omitted information required by section 809A.13(4)(d). The district court dismissed the driver’s claims for noncompliance with the statute’s pleading requirements. Following months of litigation, the State consented to return of the vehicle to the owner. The district court denied the owner’s claim for attorney fees. The Supreme Court remanded, holding (1) the district court erred by failing to rule on Claimants’ motions to suppress before adjudicating the forfeiture claims and erred by overruling Fifth Amendment objections to the pleading requirements; and (2) the vehicle owner was a prevailing party entitled to recover his reasonable attorney fees under the forfeiture statute. View "In re Property Seized from Jean Carlos Herrera and Fernando Rodriguez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision granting postconviction relief to Defendant on his claim that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel from an immigration attorney when he tried to get a driver’s license, holding that no right to counsel had attached when Defendant went to the driver’s license station. Defendant’s visit to the driver’s license station triggered a criminal investigation and ultimately a conviction for a previously committed fraudulent practice. The district court set aside Defendant’s guilty plea and sentence, holding that Defendant’s counsel, who was representing Defendant in a pending federal immigration case, breached his essential duty to provide necessary advice to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that neither the right to counsel under Iowa Const. art. I, 10, nor the United States Constitution Sixth Amendment right to counsel had attached at the time Defendant’s attorney advised Defendant regarding getting a driver’s license, as this was before any investigation or criminal proceedings had begun. View "Hernandez-Ruiz v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the district court erred in not ordering a competency examination and in excluding evidence when Defendant’s lawyer moved midtrial for the examination of Defendant, who, among other things, stated that she wanted to stab her lawyer in the neck and wanted to kill him. Defendant was charged with willful injury causing bodily injury. During trial, the district court excluded evidence relating to the victim’s prior threatening behavior and her convictions for two assaults and an escape as more prejudicial than probative. Also during trial, Defendant’s attorney moved for a competency examination of Defendant, stating that Defendant was incapable of aiding him in her defense due to Defendant’s paranoid schizophrenia. The district court denied the motion, and Defendant was convicted. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court was presented with sufficient reason to order a competency evaluation under Iowa Code 812.3; and (2) the district court properly excluded the challenged evidence about the victim as being substantially more prejudicial than probative. View "State v. Einfeldt" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, Appellant, who at age thirteen shot and killed his mother, raised challenges to Iowa’s youthful offender laws. Specifically, he argued (1) Iowa Code 232.45(7)(a) does not provide statutory authority to try a thirteen-year-old as a youthful offender, (2) Iowa Code 232.45(7) and Iowa Code 907.3A constitute unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, and (3) the sentencing court abused its discretion by incarcerating him. The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant’s conviction as a youthful offender and his fifty-year indeterminate sentence with immediate parole eligibility, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Appellant to a prison term rather than releasing him on probation or placing him in a transitional facility based on an individualized assessment of Defendant under a constitutional statutory scheme. View "State v. Crooks" on Justia Law

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After Defendant’s initial sentence was voided for illegality, the district court resentenced Defendant to a new term of imprisonment. The district court originally suspended Defendant’s prison sentence and instead ordered a five-year term of probation. Upon resentencing, the court refused to credit the time Defendant spent on probation pursuant to the initial sentence against the new term of imprisonment. The Supreme Court held that the failure to award credit for the time spent on probation violated Defendant’s constitutional right to be free from double jeopardy under the Fifth Amendment. The court held that all time Defendant spent on probation pursuant to the voided sentence must be fully credited against a corrected sentence of incarceration because, when an initial sentence is voided for illegality, any punishments already endured must be credited against the corrected sentence. The dissent disagreed, arguing that probation should not be equated with punishment in the same way incarceration is considered for double jeopardy purposes. View "State v. Jepsen" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for failure to comply with the sex offender registry but vacated the district court sentence, which included sentencing enhancements, and remanded for further sentencing proceedings. The court held (1) despite the legislature’s ambiguous language in Iowa Code 692A.105, the legislature intended for registered sex offenders to provide notification of a change to temporary lodgings within five business days of that change; (2) the evidence was sufficient to show Defendant failed to comply with section 692A.105; (3) the district court properly instructed the jury regarding the applicable law; (4) any alleged prosecutorial misconduct did not prejudice Defendant; (5) Defendant’s stipulations to the sentencing enhancements were meaningless without a factual basis establishing whether he was represented by counsel for his prior convictions, and therefore, the case should be remanded to establish a factual basis on this sentencing issue; and (6) Defendant’s remaining claims of ineffective assistance of counsel failed. View "State v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for indecent exposure due to ineffective assistance of counsel and vacated the portion of the district court’s sentence imposing a surcharge for Defendant’s stalking conviction and remanded for the entry of a corrected sentence. Defendant was convicted of indecent exposure and stalking. As relevant to this appeal, the trial court imposed a $100 surcharge on Defendant’s stalking conviction under Iowa Code 911.2B. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in part and vacated the sentence in part, holding (1) Defendant’s counsel was ineffective as a matter of law by failing to challenge, in a motion for judgment of acquittal, the sufficiency of the evidence of indecent exposure; and (2) the imposition of the second 911.2B surcharge violated the Ex Post Facto Clause. View "State v. Lopez" on Justia Law

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Law enforcement officers executing a search warrant violated Defendant’s rights under Iowa Const. art. I, 8 by searching her purse while she was a visitor present at the premises to be searched but where the search warrant made no motion of her. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress, which the district court denied. Defendant was subsequently found guilty of possessing marijuana. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling on the motion to suppress and remanded the case to the district court, holding (1) a search of the possessions of a third party at a residence is unconstitutional when the warrant does not support probable cause to search that particular person; and (2) under this court’s applicable caselaw, the search of Defendant’s purse could not be supported based on any of the State’s theories independent of the search warrant. View "State v. Brown" on Justia Law

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West Central Cooperative was an agricultural cooperative owned by farmers. Westco Agronomy Co., L.L.C. was a wholly-owned subsidiary of West Central formed in 2005 for the purpose of streamlining delivery of agronomy products, including seed, fertilizer, and chemicals. In 2002, Westco hired Chad Hartzler to work in the agronomy division selling seed and eventually chemicals. He was later promoted to sales director but retained oversight of some of Westco’s largest accounts, including the Wollesens. A dispute arose over the relationships of these parties, resulting in a three-week jury trial and a substantial damages verdict in favor of the customer and against the cooperative. The Iowa Supreme Court limited its consideration of the case to three matters raised in the cooperative’s application for further review: (1) the district court properly denied the cooperative’s motion for new trial based on inconsistent verdicts; (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the cooperative’s pretrial motion to have equitable issues tried first; and (3), with respect to the constitutionality of Iowa Code section 706A.2(5) (2011), the statute unconstitutionally shifts the burden to the defendant. Specifically, any person who provides property or services that end up being used to facilitate “specified unlawful activity” must prove his or her own lack of negligence to avoid liability. However, the Supreme Court found the burden-shifting provision contained in section 706A.2(5)(b)(4) could be severed from the rest of the statute. Accordingly, while the Court otherwise affirmed the district court, it reversed the district court’s dismissal of this claim. View "Westco Agronomy Company, LLC v. Wollesen" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jason Weitzel appealed the judgment and sentences entered on his guilty pleas to domestic abuse assault, possession of methamphetamine, carrying weapons, and operating while intoxicated. Defendant challenged the adequacy of his guilty plea colloquy, arguing the district court did not advise him about the statutory thirty-five percent criminal penalty surcharges, and this failure invalidated his guilty pleas. The court of appeals held the district court did not substantially comply with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)(b)(2) during the guilty plea colloquy because it omitted information regarding the surcharges, and reversed. The State sought certiorari review, and the Iowa Supreme Court concurred with the appellate court that the district court did not substantially comply with rule 2.8(2)(b)(2) because it failed to inform the defendant about the mandatory thirty-five percent criminal penalty surcharges. Because of the district court’s noncompliance, defendant was entitled to withdraw his pleas. The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings. View "Iowa v. Weitzel" on Justia Law