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State v. Letscher

Supreme Court of Iowa

December 30, 2016

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
PATRICK JOHN LETSCHER, Appellant.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Winnebago County, Gregg R. Rosenbladt, Judge.

         Defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision affirming a sentence imposed by the district court that forfeited a $2000 cash bail to pay the financial obligations imposed by the sentence. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMED IN PART AND VACATED IN PART; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT AND SENTENCE AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Katherine M. Krickbaum (until withdrawal), then Thomas J. Ogden and Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorneys General, and Adam D. Sauer, County Attorney, for appellee.

          Alan R. Ostergren, County Attorney, for amicus curiae Iowa County Attorneys Association.

          CADY, Chief Justice.

         In this case, we consider whether a sentence in a criminal case may include a provision for the forfeiture of a pretrial bail bond in payment of the various financial obligations imposed as a part of the sentence. We conclude a sentencing court in Iowa is not authorized to impose forfeiture of bail. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals in part and affirm it in part. We affirm the sentence of the district court in part, reverse in part, and remand with directions.

         I. Factual Background and Proceedings.

         On August 28, 2013, the Forest City Police Department took Patrick Letscher and another person into custody and filed a complaint accusing them of stealing a pickup truck. A magistrate set bail at $2000, cash only. Two days later, Letscher posted the bail with the clerk of court. He also signed a form entitled, "APPEARANCE BOND - WAIVER OF ARRAIGNMENT - AUTHORIZATION OF PLEAS OF GUILTY, " ostensibly provided to him by the clerk. The form contained preprinted text with several blank lines requesting information. The blanks were completed and identified Letscher's name, the offenses charged, the date and time of the preliminary hearing, and the amount of bail. The text included two set-off paragraphs with an underlined lead-in next to each. The paragraphs provided, "(Arresting officer to check the one that applies)."

___ SIMPLE MISDEMEANOR - Upon my failure to appear and enter a plea to said charge, I hereby waive my rights to appear in Court, to have an attorney, to further move or plea, and to have a trial. On my failure to appear, I authorize the Court to enter a plea of guilty to the charge set out above and I understand that my bond will be forfeited in payment of fines, surcharges, costs and victim restitution in this matter and any other criminal judgment(s) against me in Winnebago County. The Surety whose name appears below agrees and consents to such payment.
___ OTHER - The bond is posted to insure my appearance in Court on said date and time and at all future court appearances until these matters are concluded and to comply with all future court orders. I UNDERSTAND THAT IF I DO NOT APPEAR, THIS BOND MAY BE FORFEITED AND A WARRANT FOR MY ARREST MAY BE ISSUED IF THE COURT SO ORDERS. I authorize the Clerk of Court to use this bail bond to pay all fines, surcharges, costs and victim restitution that I may be ordered to pay by the Court in the final judgment of this matter or any other criminal judgment(s) against me in Winnebago County.

         The paragraph marked "OTHER" was checked as the pertinent provision. The form then stated, "Posted by, " and contained a line for the defendant's signature and address. Letscher signed his name on this line. He was released from custody.

         Letscher was subsequently charged by trial information with the felony crimes of theft in the first degree and criminal mischief in the second degree. The charges were later amended to include habitual felony offender enhancements. In August of 2014, Letscher entered a written plea of guilty to the theft charge pursuant to a plea agreement. Under this agreement, the State promised to concur in the sentencing recommendation of the presentence investigator, dismiss the habitual felony offender enhancement, dismiss the criminal mischief charge, and dismiss all charges against the other person arrested with Letscher. The written plea identified, and the court reiterated, Letscher's understanding of the maximum penalties, including a fine up to $10, 000, ten years in custody, a thirty-five percent surcharge on the fine, court costs, and reimbursement of attorney fees. The district court subsequently sentenced Letscher to a period of incarceration not to exceed ten years. It refused to suspend the period of incarceration and grant probation. It ...


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