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State v. Weehler-Smith

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DREW WEEHLER-SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.

         The defendant appeals from the district court's denial of his petition to modify a restitution order.

          Britt Gagne of Gagne Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.

         While he was a juvenile, Drew Weehler-Smith was charged with murder in the first degree. He ultimately pled guilty to murder in the second degree, and the court ordered Weehler-Smith to pay $150, 000 in restitution to the victim's family. See Iowa Code § 910.3B (2016) ("[T]he court shall . . . order the offender to pay at least one hundred fifty thousand dollars in restitution to the victim's estate."). Weehler-Smith later filed a petition to modify the restitution order, which the district court denied.

         On appeal, Weehler-Smith maintains the imposition of $150, 000 in restitution is excessive in violation of article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution as applied to him in these circumstances. Additionally, he claims ordering a juvenile defendant to pay $150, 000 in restitution violates the cruel and unusual punishment clause of article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. Finally, he claims the district court abused its discretion when it failed to consider imposing a lesser amount of restitution.[1]

         I. Standards of Review.

         "We review an allegedly unconstitutional sentence de novo." Richardson, 890 N.W.2d at 614.

         II. Discussion.

         A. Excessive Restitution.

         The Iowa Supreme Court has determined that the restitution award under section 910.3B has "several punitive elements" and therefore should be considered a "fine" within the meaning of both the Eighth Amendment of the Federal Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. See id. at 621. We consider whether the $150, 000 restitution was excessive as applied to Weehler-Smith in this case.

         "[E]xcessive-fine analysis primarily focuses 'on the amount of the punishment as it relates to the particular circumstances of the offense.'" Id. at 625 (quoting State v. Izzolena, 609 N.W.2d 541, 551 (Iowa 2000)). "The 'fine' must bear some relationship to the gravity of the offense it is designed to punish." Id. at 625-26 (citations omitted). "The issue is whether 'the restitution [is] grossly ...


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