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Caldwell v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 26, 2013

CONRAD CALDWELL, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Stephen B. Jackson Jr., Judge.

Conrad Caldwell appeals from the district court ruling denying his application for postconviction relief.

Wallace L. Taylor, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Richard J. Bennett, Assistant Attorney General, Jerry Vander Sanden, County Attorney, and Robert Hruska, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Conrad Caldwell appeals from the district court ruling denying his application for postconviction relief. Caldwell argues the district court erred in finding his counsel was not ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress evidence. Because we find Caldwell's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel did not survive his guilty plea, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Conrad Caldwell was charged with and pleaded guilty to carrying weapons, in violation of Iowa Code section 724.4 (2009); possession of marijuana, in violation of section 124.401(5); and interference with official acts, in violation of section 719.1. Caldwell filed a pro se application for postconviction relief and counsel was appointed.[1] In his application, Caldwell argues his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to file a motion to suppress evidence.

The incident which led to Caldwell's arrest and eventual conviction occurred on March 2, 2010. On that date Caldwell took his car to Walmart for an oil change.[2] While performing the oil change, a Walmart employee observed a firearm in Caldwell's vehicle and called the police. Almost an hour after work began on Caldwell's vehicle, the police arrived. After a discussion with Caldwell, the police obtained permission to search under the front driver's seat of Caldwell's car. No firearm was located.

Subsequent to this search, as Caldwell began to remove his car from the oil change bay, his path was blocked by the arrival of an additional police officer. Caldwell was approached and informed that the police would like to search the rest of the vehicle. After a brief discussion Caldwell again consented to a search, this time to the area under the passenger seat. The officer began the search in the front seat but soon proceeded to an area behind the passenger seat. Objecting to the extension of the search beyond the front passenger seat, Caldwell entered the back seat of the car to stop the search. Caldwell was forcibly removed from the vehicle and placed under arrest.[3] Officers continued their search and located a firearm. Caldwell's car was subsequently impounded.

Philip Fontana was appointed to represent Caldwell, although they did not meet until Caldwell's pretrial conference. Caldwell testified at the postconviction relief trial that he did not understand at the time what a motion to suppress was and did not discuss the filing of such a motion with Fontana. Immediately prior to the pretrial conference, Fontana presented Caldwell with a plea offer that reduced his sentence to fifteen days on each count to run concurrently, plus a fine. Caldwell signed a written plea and waiver of rights.

II. Standard of Review

We review postconviction relief applications which raise constitutional questions de novo. Harrington v. State, 6 ...


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