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State v. Ozuna-Contreras

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JUAN OZUNA-CONTRERAS, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Sioux County, James D. Scott, Judge.

A defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's findings of guilt on three forgery counts.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Dennis D. Hendrickson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, and Coleman McAllister, County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Doyle, JJ.

VAITHESWARAN, J.

A district court found Juan Ozuna-Contreras guilty of one count of identity theft and three counts of forgery. On appeal, Ozuna-Contreras challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the court's findings of guilt on the forgery counts.

As a preliminary matter, Ozuna-Contreras asserts that, because this issue was not raised in the district court, he must bring the challenge under an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel rubric. To the contrary, "in a bench trial the defendant is not required to move for a judgment of acquittal to preserve error on a sufficiency of the evidence claim." State v. Petithory, 702 N.W.2d 854, 856 (Iowa 2005). "[W]hen a criminal case is tried to the court, a defendant may challenge the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal irrespective of whether a motion for judgment of acquittal was previously made." State v. Abbas, 561 N.W.2d 72, 74 (Iowa 1997). Our review of the district court's findings of guilt is for substantial evidence. State v. Sutton, 636 N.W.2d 107, 110 (Iowa 2001).

The district court framed the elements of the first forgery count as follows:

1. On or about November 7, 2011, in Sioux County, Iowa, the defendant did make, complete, execute, or authenticate an I-9 employment verification form.
2. Without Juan Miguel Bautista Rosario's authority the defendant made the I-9 employment verification form appear to be the act of Rosario.
3. The defendant knew the act would facilitate a fraud or injury.
4. The I-9 employment verification form was a document prescribed by statute as evidence for an authorized stay in the United States or for employment within the United States.

The second two forgery counts were slightly different. These counts did not require proof of elements 1 and 2 above. Instead, they required the State to prove that Ozuna-Contreras "possessed" a social security card and State of Oregon identification card in the name of Juan Miguel Bautista Rosario "which had been made, executed, completed, issued, authenticated, or transferred ...


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