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State v. Yates

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 17, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RICHARD YATES III, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         A defendant convicted of burglary and theft challenges his sentences as illegal. SENTENCE VACATED IN PART AND REMANDED FOR RESENTENCING.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         In the summer of 2016, Richard Yates III broke into a construction trailer and stole equipment valued between $1000 and $10, 000. He also exercised control over stolen property valued between $500 and $1000. After being charged for these acts, he pleaded guilty to two class "D" felonies-burglary in the third degree and theft in the second degree-both as an habitual offender. In a separate case, he pleaded guilty to theft in the third degree, an aggravated misdemeanor. See Iowa Code § 714.2(3) (2016).

         On appeal Yates claims he received illegal sentences. For the two habitual-offender felonies, Yates contends the district court acted without statutory authority in imposing the law enforcement initiative (LEI) surcharge of $125 on each count. See id. § 911.3. For the aggravated-misdemeanor theft, he claims the court illegally sentenced him to a determinate term of 730 days in the county jail. The State concedes resentencing is required for the aggravated-misdemeanor offense but defends imposition of the LEI surcharges on the felonies. Because confinement of more than one year must be an indeterminate term, we agree a remand for resentencing is in order on the aggravated-misdemeanor sentence.[1] See id. § 903.1(2). For the reasons discussed below, we find the court's imposition of the LEI surcharges was authorized by statute.

         We may correct an illegal sentence at any time. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(5)(a). When a defendant challenges a sentence as being outside the court's statutory authority, we review for errors at law. See State v. Morris, 416 N.W.2d 688, 689 (Iowa 1987). If the sentence is not permitted by statute, it is illegal and void. State v. Ross, 729 N.W.2d 806, 809 (Iowa 2007).

         We turn to the parties' dispute over the LEI surcharge, an obligation arising under Iowa Code section 911.3. Yates points to the general sentencing statute for felons-Iowa Code section 902.9. That section sets out penalties for class "D" felons, who are not habitual offenders, as no more than five years in prison and a fine of at least $750 but not more than $7500. See Iowa Code § 902.9(1)(e). But habitual offenders face confinement for not more than fifteen years with no fine. See id. § 902.9(1)(c). Section 902.9 also provides that the section 911.3 surcharge "shall be added to a fine imposed on a class 'C' or class 'D' felon, as provided by those sections, and [is] not part of or subject to the maximums set in this section." Id. § 902.9(2).

         Looking at section 902.9(2), Yates asserts the legislature intended the surcharges be added to the sentences of class "C" and class "D" felons but not to the sentences for habitual offenders. In Yates's view, had lawmakers meant for surcharges to be added to habitual-offender sentences, "they could have said so. They did not." Yates contends his interpretation is "buttressed" by the wording of Iowa Code section 911.3, which provides:

1. In addition to any other surcharge, the court or clerk of the district court shall assess a law enforcement initiative surcharge of one hundred twenty-five dollars if an adjudication of guilt or a deferred judgment has been entered for a criminal violation under any of the following:
a. Chapter 124, 155A, 453B, 713, 714, 715A, ...

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