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State v. Thompson

Supreme Court of Iowa

December 12, 2014

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,

Page 916

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Carol L. Coppola (plea), District Associate Judge, and Odell G. McGhee II, (sentencing), District Associate Judge. A defendant seeks further review of an opinion affirming his sentence.

Benjamin D. Bergmann of Parrish, Kruidenier, Dunn, Boles, Gribble & Gentry, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Heather R. Quick, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Andrea M. Petrovich, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.


Page 917

On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

WIGGINS, Justice.

The defendant entered into a plea agreement with the State and proceeded to plead guilty to possession of a controlled substance. The court accepted his plea and set sentencing for a later date. At the time of sentencing, the court did not follow the recommendations in the plea agreement.

The defendant waived reporting of the sentencing hearing. The court failed to give its reason for the defendant's sentence in the written sentencing order. The defendant appealed. We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals relied on State v. Mudra, 532 N.W.2d 765 (Iowa 1995), and State v. Alloway, 707 N.W.2d 582 (Iowa 2006), overruled on other grounds by State v. Johnson, 784 N.W.2d 192, 197-98 (Iowa 2010). It affirmed the sentence, holding the defendant waived his appeal rights as to his sentence. The court of appeals also held language in defendant's petition to plead guilty did not require the court to allow the defendant to withdraw his plea and therefore complied with Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.10.

On further review, we overrule our decisions in Mudra and Alloway and hold a judge must give his or her reasons for the defendant's sentence either on the record at a hearing or in the written sentencing order. From this time forward, a defendant does not waive his or her right to an appeal when the defendant waives reporting of the sentencing hearing and the judge fails to include his or her reasons for the sentence in the sentencing order. Additionally, we hold because the plea agreement was not conditioned on the concurrence of the district court, the court did not err in deviating from the plea agreement. Accordingly, we affirm in part and vacate in part the decision of the court of appeals, vacate the defendant's sentence, and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On August 19, 2013, the State charged Mark Thompson with possession of a controlled substance in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2013). The State offered Thompson a plea deal and filed it with the district court. In exchange for a guilty plea to the offense originally charged, the State agreed to recommend a sentence of sixty days incarceration, a $625 fine, and no probation. Thompson accepted the plea offer. On October 10, he filed a petition to plead guilty. Thompson's petition stated the plea agreement stipulated the State wanted sixty days in jail with no probation, but Thompson was free to argue for less jail time at sentencing. On the same day, the district court entered an order accepting the plea and set Thompson's sentencing hearing.

On October 31, the district court sentenced Thompson. The only record of the sentencing is a sentencing-order form filled out in pen by the judge. The form indicates Thompson waived reporting of the sentencing hearing. The form also indicates the district court deviated from the recommended sentence in the plea agreement. The district court sentenced Thompson to two years of incarceration with all but fifteen days of the sentence suspended and placed Thompson on probation for two years.[1] The court gave Thompson two days' credit for time served.

Page 918

However, the district court did not fill out the section of the sentencing-order form regarding reasons for the court's sentence, which required the judge to check one or more boxes that the judge found consistent with the reasons for the chosen sentence. This section of the form reads as follows:

On inquiry, no legal cause has been shown to prevent sentencing on this date. Defendant was given an opportunity to speak in mitigation of the sentence. The following sentence is based on all the available SENTENCING CONSIDERATIONS set out in Iowa Code Section 907.5. The court finds the following factors the most significant in determining this particular sentence:
☐ The nature and circumstances of the crime
☐ Protection of the public from further offenses
☐ Defendant's criminal history
☐ Defendant's substance abuse history
☐ Defendant's propensity for further criminal acts
☐ Statutory sentence requirements
☐ Defendant's statement
☐ Defendant's mental health history
☐ Defendant's family ...

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