In re the DETENTION OF Anthony GELTZ, Anthony Geltz, Appellant.
Michael H. Adams, Chief Public Defender, Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John B. McCormally, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
This appeal presents the narrow question of whether a juvenile adjudication of delinquency on a charge of sexual abuse can serve as a predicate conviction to adjudicate the offender as a " sexually violent predator" (SVP) under Iowa Code section 229A.2(11) (2011). The district court ordered Anthony Geltz, then age eighteen, confined as an SVP at the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute, based on an offense Geltz committed at age fourteen. Geltz was charged as a juvenile and adjudicated delinquent for that offense in 2008, but has never had an adult conviction. He cannot be committed as an SVP without a qualifying prior conviction.
We must apply unambiguous operative statutory language as written without second-guessing the policy choices of the legislature. Iowa Code section 232.55(1) expressly provides that a juvenile adjudication " shall not be deemed a conviction of a crime," and chapter 229A nowhere states that a juvenile adjudication can substitute for the predicate conviction required to commit an offender as an SVP. As further explained below, other Code provisions explicitly mention both convictions and juvenile adjudications together when the legislature chooses to impose the same consequences for each category of offense. Accordingly, we hold that a juvenile adjudication does not constitute a conviction within the meaning of section 229A.2(11). We therefore reverse the judgment and order of the district court that committed Geltz as an SVP.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
Geltz was born in 1993. As a child, he was sexually abused by his mentally handicapped sister and by two adult men, one of whom lived in the family home. Geltz in turn abused his stepsister and other neighborhood children. At age twelve, Geltz was sent to live at the Annie Wittenmyer Home in Davenport. Two years later, Geltz escaped from Wittenmyer and went to a Chuck E. Cheese's® restaurant, where he sexually abused a child. Geltz was prosecuted as a juvenile and adjudicated delinquent for sexual abuse in the second degree. He was placed in the State Training School for Boys in Eldora and has remained institutionalized. At Eldora, he was disciplined a dozen times for infractions involving sexual misconduct.
After Geltz turned eighteen, the State petitioned on June 7, 2011, to have him declared an SVP. After hearing conflicting expert testimony, the district court evaluated Geltz under Iowa Code section 229A.2(11), which defines " sexually violent predator" as
a person who has been convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense and who suffers from a mental abnormality which makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts constituting
sexually violent offenses, if not confined in a secure facility.
The district court ruled Geltz's juvenile adjudication constituted a conviction and found he is an SVP. The district court therefore ordered him committed to the Cherokee facility. This appeal followed.
II. Scope of Review.
Geltz raises one issue in his appeal: whether the district court erred by ruling that his juvenile adjudication constitutes a conviction within the meaning of section 229A.2(11). We review the district court's construction of this chapter for correction of errors at law. In re Det. of Swanson, 668 N.W.2d 570, 575 (Iowa 2003).
Geltz argues that Iowa Code section 232.55(1) prohibits the State from using his juvenile adjudication as the conviction required under section 229A.2(11). The State argues that the term " convicted" in Iowa Code section 229A.2 (11) should be read broadly to include juvenile adjudications. We must decide this question of first impression as to the meaning of " convicted" in section 229A.2(11).
When interpreting chapter 229A and related statutes, " our primary goal is to give effect to the intent of the legislature." In re Det. of Betsworth, 711 N.W.2d 280, 283 (Iowa 2006). We look " first and foremost to the language it chose in creating the act." Swanson, 668 N.W.2d at 574. " We read the statute as a whole and give it its plain and obvious meaning, a sensible and logical construction, which does not create an impractical or absurd result." Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). " ‘ If more than one statute relating to the subject matter at issue is relevant to the inquiry, we consider all the statutes ...