from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Stephen
C. Clarke, Judge.
Meksavanh appeals the denial and dismissal of his application
for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.
W. Bjornstad of Bjornstad Law Office, Spirit Lake, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
2011, Somvang Meksavanh was convicted, as a second and
habitual offender, of possession of more than five grams of
methamphetamine with the intent to deliver, as well as
failure to affix a drug tax stamp. See State v.
Meksavanh, No. 12-1878, 2014 WL 3749356, *1-3 (Iowa Ct.
App. July 30, 2014). We affirmed his convictions on appeal
and preserved his ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims
for postconviction-relief (PCR) proceedings. See id.
Meksavanh filed an application for PCR, a hearing was held in
2015. Thereafter, the district court entered its order
denying and dismissing Meksavanh's PCR application,
finding Meksavanh's trial counsel provided Meksavanh
effective assistance. Meksavanh now appeals, arguing his
trial counsel was ineffective (1) for permitting him to
stipulate to his prior convictions "without
investigation and analysis of the underlying convictions,
" and (2) in failing to advise him concerning the
immigration consequences of entering a guilty plea. Our
review of ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims is de
novo. See More v. State, 880 N.W.2d 487,
498 (Iowa 2016); Nguyen v. State, 878
N.W.2d 744, 750 (Iowa 2016).
succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a
PCR applicant "must prove by a preponderance of evidence
'(1) his trial counsel failed to perform an essential
duty, and (2) this failure resulted in prejudice.'"
Rhoades v. State, 848 N.W.2d 22, 28 (Iowa
2014) (citation omitted). If Meksavanh cannot establish both
elements, his claim fails; thus, if we find one element
lacking, we need not address the other element. See State
v. Schlitter, 881 N.W.2d 380, 388 (Iowa 2016).
"[I]t is the applicant's burden to present facts
establishing inadequate representation." King v.
State, 797 N.W.2d 565, 571 (Iowa 2011).
to Prior Convictions.
asserts that he was prejudiced by his trial attorney's
failure to "investigate the circumstances surrounding
[his] two prior convictions." He essentially argues that
had his trial attorney investigated the convictions, the
attorney would have learned Meksavanh had "limited
language skills" and probably did not understand the
consequences of the guilty pleas he entered in the prior
cases. Even assuming this claim was preserved for our review,
the claim fails on its merits.
was convicted of two felonies in 1997, and the statute of
limitations to challenge his guilty pleas for lack of
understanding had long since passed by the time of his 2011
convictions. See Nguyen, 878 N.W.2d at 751
(discussing the statute of limitations for PCR actions set
forth in Iowa Code section 822.3). Consequently, once the
State alleged in the trial information that Meksavanh was
subject to an increased sentence under the Iowa Code because
of one or more prior convictions, Meksavanh was only entitled
to an "opportunity in open court to affirm or deny that
the offender is the person previously convicted, or that the
offender was not represented by counsel and did not waive
counsel." Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.19(9). Meksavanh did not
and does not claim the 1997 convictions were not his
convictions or that he lacked representation in those
matters. Therefore, his counsel had no duty to further
investigate his prior convictions charged by the State or to
challenge the convictions' existence. See id.;
State v. McBride, 625 N.W.2d 372, 375-76 (Iowa Ct.
App. 2001); see also Millam v. State, 745 N.W.2d
719, 721-22 (Iowa 2008) ("Trial counsel has no duty to
raise an issue that has no merit."). Similarly,
Meksavanh was not prejudiced by the "failure"
because further investigation of the prior convictions would
not have prevented him from receiving an enhanced sentence.
See McBride, 625 N.W.2d at 375-76. Because Meksavanh
failed to establish either element-duty or prejudice-of an
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, the claim fails as a
matter of law.
of Guilty-Plea Offer and Immigration.
also claims his counsel rendered ineffective assistance
because he was not advised of the immigration consequences
related to entering a guilty plea. More specifically, he
maintains that "while he may have been advised of his
rights from a guilty plea, he was not advised during the ...