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State v. Seiler

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
LEROY SEILER, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Hancock County, Rustin Davenport, Judge.

A defendant appeals claiming his sentence is illegal.

Dylan J. Thomas, Mason City, for appellant.

Leroy Seiler, Fort Dodge, appellant pro se.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and William A. Hill, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

DANILSON, J.

Fred Seiler appeals the district court's denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. He was convicted of first degree murder in 1982 and has been serving a life sentence for the conviction. He claims the mittimus issued following his sentence states he is to be committed to the department of corrections for the rest of his life less 134 days for time spent in jail prior to sentencing. He claims this sentence is inherently flawed because he cannot be given credit for the 134 days he spent in jail prior to sentencing because he is committed until his death. He also argues the failure to credit him these 134 days is a violation of his right to due process and equal protection. We conclude the sentence is not illegal or unconstitutional as Seiler will be granted credit in the event his sentence is commuted to a term of years. In a separate issue we conclude the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Seiler a restitution hearing. We affirm.

Because we find the two statutory provisions that Seiler challenges are not in conflict and can be read in harmony, we reject Seiler's claim that his sentence is impossible, illegal, inherently flawed, and/or void. We also conclude his equal protection claim cannot succeed because the classification of felons does not create similarly situated groups, and his procedural due process rights are not implicated because Seiler has not been deprived of a protected interest. Therefore, there is no constitutional violation in this case.

Seiler makes both statutory construction claims and constitutional claims. We review questions of statutory interpretation for correction of errors at law.

State v. Gonzalez, 718 N.W.2d 304, 307 (Iowa 2006). However, our review of a constitutional challenge is de novo. Id.

I. Statutory construction claim.

Seiler claims Iowa Code section 902.1 (1985)—which provides that offenders convicted of a class "A" felony are to be sentenced to life in prison and shall not be released unless the governor commutes the sentence to a term of years—conflicts with section 903A.5[1]—which provides, in part, that an inmate who was confined to a county jail prior to sentencing is to be "given credit for the days already served upon the term of the sentence." Because of this alleged conflict, Seiler asserts his sentence, which confines him for life but yet gives him a credit of 134 days, is inherently flawed and as a result void.

We find no conflict in the statutes. Iowa Code section 903A.5 provides that the credit is to be give for days already served "upon the term of the sentence." (Emphasis added.) The word "term" is not defined in the statute, but Black's Law Dictionary defines "term" as "a fixed period of time." Black's Law Dictionary 1510 (8th ed. 2004); see also State v. White, 545 N.W.2d 552, 555–56 (Iowa 1996) ("When examining a statutory term, we give words their ordinary meaning, absent any legislative definition or particular meaning in ...


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