review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mary E. Howes,
seeks further review of a court of appeals decision affirming
the district court's imposition of sentence under an
enhancement for repeat offenders. DECISION OF COURT OF
APPEALS VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT REVERSED IN PART AND
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nan Jennisch,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Mary A. Triick and Kevin R.
Cmelik, Assistant Attorneys General, Michael J. Walton,
County Attorney, Amy DeVine, Assistant County Attorney, for
case, we consider the procedural protections available to a
defendant when the State seeks a sentencing enhancement under
Iowa's habitual offender statute. The district court in
this case did not inform the defendant of certain
constitutional and statutory rights associated with accepting
pleas of guilt before accepting his admission to the prior
convictions to support the habitual offender status. The
court of appeals found the defendant failed to preserve error
by filing a motion in arrest of judgment based on his claims
of deficiencies in the proceedings. It also concluded the
district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to
permit the admission to be withdrawn. Finally, the court of
appeals found that even if there were error, no prejudice
resulted. On further review, we vacate the decision of the
court of appeals, reverse the district court, and remand the
case for a trial on the defendant's habitual offender
Factual Background and Proceedings.
Letroy Antwan Harrington was arrested and charged with the
crime of robbery in the second degree. See Iowa Code
§ 711.1 (2013) ("A person commits a robbery when,
having the intent to commit a theft, the person. . .
[c]ommits an assault upon another."); id.
§ 711.3 ("All robbery which is not robbery in the
first degree is robbery in the second degree. Robbery in the
second degree is a class "C"
felony."). The State also
sought a "habitual offender" sentencing enhancement
based on his prior record. See id. § 902.8
(2013) ("An habitual offender is any person convicted of
a class "C" or a class "D" felony, who
has twice before been convicted of any felony in a court of
this or any other state, or of the United States.").
Under the habitual offender statute, instead of a ten-year
sentence, Harrington faced a fifteen-year sentence. See
id. §§ 902.8, .9(3)-(4).
minutes of testimony revealed the State planned to call
designees of the Scott County jail and Jasper County clerk of
court to testify Harrington was convicted of the crime of
going armed with intent in 2000 and the crime of possession
of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in 2009. The
State also attached a report from the National Crime
Information Center identifying the two prior felony
case proceeded to a jury trial on the charge of robbery in
the second degree. Harrington testified in his defense, and
evidence of his prior felony convictions was admitted during
his testimony. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. The
district court proceeded to consider the habitual offender
the presence of the jury, the district court asked Harrington
if he wanted to stipulate to the two prior felony convictions
in support of the habitual offender enhancement or if he
wanted the issue decided by the jury. Harrington acknowledged
the two prior felony convictions, but expressed his desire
for the matter to be decided by the jury. After a spirited
colloquy, the district court accepted Harrington's
admission to the prior felonies and concluded no jury
determination was needed because Harrington admitted to the
prior convictions. During the colloquy, Harrington was
informed that his admission meant he was no longer entitled
to a trial.
district court subsequently sentenced Harrington for the
crime of robbery in the second degree as a habitual offender.
He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, with a mandatory
minimum period of incarceration of seventy percent before
eligibility for parole.
appealed. He claimed the courtroom habitual offender colloquy
was deficient for two reasons. First, he claimed the colloquy
failed to show his admission to the prior offenses was made
voluntarily and intelligently. Second, he asserted the
colloquy failed to identify evidence to show he was
represented by counsel or waived counsel in the cases
involving the prior convictions. Harrington also claimed the
district court should have construed his request during the
colloquy for a trial as a request to withdraw his admission,
and it abused its discretion in refusing the request.
transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of
appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district
court. It found Harrington failed to preserve error
concerning deficiencies in the habitual offender colloquy by
failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment following the
habitual offender hearing and by also failing to object to
the deficiencies at the time of the colloquy. The court of
appeals also concluded the district court did not abuse its
discretion by failing to allow Harrington to withdraw his
admission to the prior felony convictions after he expressed
his desire for the jury to decide the matter. We granted
Standard of Review.
involving the interpretation of a statute or rule are usually
reviewed for errors at law." State v. Kukowski,
704 N.W.2d 687, 690-91 (Iowa 2005); see also Iowa R.
App. P. 6.907. However, to the extent our review extends
beyond the habitual offender statute and into claims having a
constitutional basis, our review is de novo. See
Kukowski, 704 N.W.2d at 690.
Preservation of Error.
first consider whether Harrington has preserved error for
appeal on his claims of deficiency in the habitual offender
colloquy. He failed to assert an objection to any
deficiencies during the habitual offender colloquy and did
not file a motion in arrest of judgment prior to sentencing.
motion in arrest of judgment is an application by a defendant
in a criminal case that no judgment should be entered
"on a finding, plea, or verdict of guilty." Iowa R.
Crim. P. 2.24(3)(a). The rule serves as a vehicle to
bring a variety of claims before the court. See State v.
Oldfather, 306 N.W.2d 760, 762 (Iowa 1981). The motion
is granted when the whole record shows no legal judgment can
be pronounced. Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(3)(a). One type
of claim identified by the rule that must be raised in the
motion is a challenge to the adequacy of a guilty plea
proceeding. Id. It is a claim that no judgment
should be entered on a "plea . . . of guilt"
because deficiencies in the proceedings rendered the plea
involuntary. Id. The rule states, "A
defendant's failure to challenge the adequacy of the
guilty plea proceeding by a motion in arrest of judgment
shall preclude the defendant's right to assert such a
challenge on appeal." Id. Thus, the motion is
both a procedural mechanism to raise claims of error and an
error preservation requirement. The question is whether both
components of the motion are applicable to claims of error in
habitual offender admission proceedings.
repeatedly said that an admission by an offender to the prior
convictions to support sentencing as a habitual offender is
comparable to a plea of guilty to support sentencing for the
crime identified in the plea. Kukowski, 704 N.W.2d
at 692; State v. Brady, 442 N.W.2d 57, 58 (Iowa
1989). An admission is comparable to a guilty plea because
both acknowledge facts that render the person amenable to
punishment by law. Additionally, the rights at stake in a
habitual offender proceeding are significant and "are
often of the same magnitude as in the case of a plea of
guilty." In re Yurko, 519 P.2d 561, 565 (Cal.
1974). If a defendant waives the right to a trial on the
prior convictions, he or she waives all the constitutional
protections associated with the trial, relieves the state of
its burden of proof, and forecloses the opportunity to appeal
trial errors. See Wright v. Craven, 325 F.Supp.
1253, 1257 (N.D. Cal. 1971) ("The defendant who admits
the priors charged against him will be deemed to have waived
nearly all rights later to question their validity. But the
harshness of this result is mitigated by one, fragile
principle: waiver must be a 'knowing, intelligent act
done with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances
and likely consequences.' " (quoting Brady v.
United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 1469
(1970))). For these reasons, many other jurisdictions also
compare habitual offender admissions to guilty pleas.
See, e.g., People v. Cross, 347 P.3d 1130,
1135 (Cal. 2015) ("The same constitutional standards of
voluntariness and intelligence apply when a defendant forgoes
a trial on a prior conviction allegation."); State
v. Cheatham, 80 P.3d 349, 353-54 (Idaho Ct. App. 2003)
(compiling cases from "[s]everal federal courts of
appeal [that] have held . . . where the law of the
prosecuting jurisdiction affords a defendant the right to a
trial on recidivist allegations, a trial court may not
dispense with such a trial without taking steps to ensure
that the defendant himself is knowingly and voluntarily
admitting the prior convictions with an understanding that he
will thereby be subject to enhanced penalties, " and
adopting the same rule (footnote omitted) (citation
omitted)). Consistent with Kukowski and
Brady, we conclude that a motion in arrest of
judgment is a proper vehicle to bring claims of deficiencies
in a habitual offender proceeding. Like claims of
deficiencies in guilty plea proceedings, claims in
deficiencies in habitual offender proceedings are assertions
that no judgment and sentence can be pronounced. The
remaining question is whether the motion is also a
requirement to preserve error for appellate review of the
claims of deficiencies.
not necessary for us to decide if a habitual offender
admission proceeding constitutes a "guilty plea
proceeding" within the error-preservation language of
Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24(3). Error preservation
is a fundamental principle of law with roots that extend to
the basic constitutional function of appellate courts.
See Meier v. Senecaut, 641 N.W.2d 532, 537 (Iowa
2002); Thomas A. Mayes & Anurahda Vaitheswaran, Error
Preservation in Civil Appeals in Iowa: Perspectives on
Present Practice, 55 Drake L. Rev. 39, 43-45 (2006)
[hereinafter Mayes]. The doctrine has been developed over
time by both court rules and court decisions. Its purpose is
to allow the district court to correct error without the
necessity of an appeal. See State v. Whorley, 297
N.W.2d 368, 370 (Iowa 1980). It also serves to create a
record for appellate review. See DeVoss v. State,
648 N.W.2d 58, 60 (Iowa 2002). See generally Mayes,
55 Drake L. Rev. at 48-50.
applied the error preservation rule to a variety of motions
in the past. See DeVoss, 648 N.W.2d at 61. Having
determined that claims of deficiencies in a habitual offender
proceeding are properly raised by filing a motion in arrest
of judgment, there is no reason not to also apply the error
preservation requirement. The purposes of the error
preservation rule would be served, just as they are by
imposing the requirement to preserve error for deficiencies
in a guilty plea proceeding. The error preservation
requirement would lead to an orderly and prompt process to
dispose of claims of procedural error, just as for
guilty-plea claims. Accordingly, we hold that offenders in a
habitual offender proceeding must preserve error in any
deficiencies in the proceeding by filing a motion in arrest
we only apply this rule of law prospectively. We therefore
excuse Harrington's failure to preserve error by filing a
motion in arrest of judgment.
Habitual Offender Colloquy.
consider the claims of deficiency in the habitual offender
colloquy. At the outset, we reject the claim by Harrington
that the district court abused its discretion in failing to
allow him to withdraw his admission to the prior convictions
after he expressed his desire for a hearing. The record fails
to reveal Harrington requested to withdraw his admission
after the district court informed him that his admission
obviated the need for a hearing. Thus, because no request to
withdraw was made, we also do not address the State's
claim that no prejudice resulted from any abuse of
discretion. We turn, therefore, to
consider the claim by Harrington that the district court
failed to engage in a colloquy in the habitual offender
proceeding to determine if the admission to the prior
convictions was made voluntarily and intelligently.
. . . is a traditional, if not the most traditional, basis
for a sentencing court's increasing an offender's
sentence." Almendarez-Torres v. United States,
523 U.S. 224, 243, 118 S.Ct. 1219, 1230 (1998). In Iowa, the
habitual offender process is governed by statute. After two
or more prior convictions of class "D" or
"C" felonies, the offender convicted of a
subsequent felony is deemed a habitual offender and subjected
to a fifteen-year sentence with a mandatory minimum period of
incarceration of three years. See Iowa Code
§§ 902.8, .9(3).
recidivist statutes have deep roots in our law, the
procedural protections observed today grew with time. Under
early versions of the Code, the state charged present and
prior offenses in one indictment, a single trial was held,
and the jury entered a special verdict on the prior offenses.
See Iowa Code §§ 4871-a, -d (Supp. 1902).
But this singular procedure immediately informed the jury of
the defendant's prior criminal record, even though such
evidence would ordinarily be inadmissible. See State v.
Fisk, 248 Iowa 970, 973, 83 N.W.2d 581, 582 (1957)
("It may be that such proof tends to convince the jury
that the defendant is not an upright citizen, and so makes
his conviction on the primary charge more likely."). The
defendant could only avoid this result by admitting the prior
convictions ahead of trial. See State v. Griff, 257
Iowa 852, 854, 135 N.W.2d 77, 78 (1965) ("[W]here the
defendant admits the prior convictions it is not proper or
necessary to instruct thereon . . . .").
1965, the legislature addressed the problem by adopting a
two-stage trial procedure. See generally 1965 Iowa
Acts ch. 444. Under the two-stage procedure, the state files
two informations, one that omits any reference to previous
convictions. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.6(5). The jury
is only read the information charging the present offense,
and the trial is confined to that offense. If this trial
results in a guilty verdict, the court then gives the
offender an opportunity to affirm or deny the prior
convictions. See id. r. 2.19(9). If the offender
denies he or she was the person identified in the prior
convictions, there is a second trial by jury "on the
issue of the offender's identity with the person
previously convicted." Id.
2002, the procedure was amended to reflect our caselaw giving
the offender the opportunity to affirm or deny not only
identity, but "that the offender was not represented by
counsel and did not waive counsel" in the prior
convictions. Id. The offender is given this
[t]o permit a conviction obtained in violation of Gideon
v. Wainwright[, 372 U.S. 335, 83 S.Ct. 792 (1963), ] to
be used against a person either to support guilt or enhance
punishment for another offense is to erode the principle of
State v. Cameron, 167 N.W.2d 689, 694 (Iowa 1969)
(citation omitted) (quoting Burgett v. Texas, 389
U.S. 109, 115, 88 S.Ct. 258, 262 (1967)). Aside from this
change and various renumbering, the rules have remained
largely unchanged since 1965. See Iowa Rs. Crim. P.
2.6(5), .19(9) (2017). The constant feature of these rules
has been that the defendant is entitled to a second trial on
the prior convictions. See Iowa Code § 785.16
(1966); Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.19(9). The State bears the burden
to establish the prior convictions beyond a reasonable doubt.
See State v. Long, 814 N.W.2d 572, 576 (Iowa 2012);
see also State v. Smith, 129 Iowa 709, 709, 106 N.W.
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