review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
to the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Richard G. Blane
juvenile challenges his sentence as unconstitutional under
the Iowa Constitution.
Pellegrin (until withdrawal) and Gregory T. Racette of
Hopkins & Huebner, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
juvenile was sentenced to four consecutive, indeterminate
sentences of ten years in prison for four counts of willful
injury causing serious injury. No mandatory minimum sentence
was imposed. However, because the crime of willful injury
causing serious injury is a forcible felony, the sentencing
judge was unable to consider a deferred judgment or probation
as a sentencing option. The juvenile now challenges, by means
of a motion to correct an illegal sentence, the forcible
felony sentencing statute under the Iowa Constitution. He
argues that the mandatory nature of the prison sentence is
unconstitutional given the Iowa Constitution and our
precedents in the area of juvenile sentencing. For the
reasons set forth below, we find that Iowa Code section 907.3
is not unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution as
applied to juvenile offenders. We vacate the decision of the
court of appeals and affirm the judgment of the district
Background Facts and Proceedings.
February 27, 2011, Derek Carr was standing outside his home
when Troy Lee Mure Jr. drove up in a vehicle in which Sayvon
Propps was a passenger. Propps exited the vehicle, fired four
shots into Carr, and got back in the vehicle. Mure
immediately drove away from the scene. Carr was hit in his
back, buttocks, and leg. He was transported to the hospital
where he remained hospitalized for three weeks before he was
discharged. Propps was seventeen years of age at the time of
April 20, the State charged Propps with attempted murder in
violation of Iowa Code section 707.11 (2011). Propps entered
into a plea agreement with the State whereby he agreed to
plead guilty to four counts of the lesser charge of willful
injury causing serious injury. The State then amended the
trial information to charge Propps with four counts of
willful injury causing serious injury in violation of Iowa
Code section 708.4(1). Because willful injury causing serious
injury is a forcible felony, probation is not an option under
Iowa law. See Iowa Code § 702.11(1);
id. § 907.3.
to the plea agreement, the district court sentenced Propps to
indeterminate sentences not to exceed ten years on each of
the four counts. The district court ordered each of the
sentences to run consecutively to the others for a maximum
sentence of forty years. There were no mandatory minimum
sentences of incarceration associated with any charge, and no
individualized sentencing hearing was conducted.
31, 2014, Propps filed a motion to correct an illegal
sentence. Propps argued that, based on recent federal and
state caselaw, the sentence imposed constituted cruel and
unusual punishment under the Iowa Constitution. Further,
Propps argued that the district court was required to conduct
an individualized sentencing hearing even though his sentence
contained no mandatory minimum period of incarceration.
Propps takes this position due to the evolution of our law
surrounding the sentencing of juveniles. The State resisted
the motion, claiming that Propps did not receive an illegal
sentence in this case. The district court denied the motion,
As the State points out, the crime-Willful Injury-to which
the Defendant pled and was sentenced, does not implicate a
mandatory minimum sentence. Since the Defendant is eligible
for parole and may be released at any time, the sentences,
whether consecutive or concurrent, are not cruel and unusual,
do not violate the federal or state constitutions, are
therefore not illegal and Defendant is not entitled to a
correction of his sentence or resentencing.
appealed the decision of the district court, and we
transferred the case to the court of appeals.
appeal, Propps argued that "all juveniles, especially
those who have been sentenced to a lengthy term of years,
must undergo an individualized sentencing hearing regardless
of whether or not the sentence has a mandatory term of
years." He asserted that individualized sentencing
applied because, as with mandatory minimums, the district
court had no choice but to sentence him to a term of
imprisonment. The court of appeals affirmed the district
court's denial of Propps's motion to correct an
illegal sentence. Propps appealed, and we granted further
State raises the issue of whether we have jurisdiction to
hear this appeal. Since the district court ruling is on a
motion to correct an illegal sentence, the State argues that
Propps cannot appeal the denial of his motion to correct an
illegal sentence because the ruling denying such a motion is
not a "final judgment of sentence" under Iowa Code
section 814.6(1). We requested supplemental briefing to
address this preliminary issue.
jurisdiction over a claim is conferred either
constitutionally or statutorily. De Stefano v. Apts.
Downtown, Inc., 879 N.W.2d 155, 164 (Iowa 2016). Iowa
Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.103(1) provides that
"[a]ll final orders and judgments of the district court
involving the merits or materially affecting the final
decision may be appealed to the supreme court, except as
provided in this rule, rule 6.105, and Iowa Code sections
814.5 and 814.6." Iowa R. App. P. 6.103(1).
Code section 814.6 contains the standards for subject-matter
jurisdiction for the review of a criminal defendant's
appeal. Iowa Code § 814.6. Pertinent to this case, a
criminal defendant has the "right of appeal" from
"[a] final judgment of sentence." Id. A
previous version of the statute provided that "[a]n
appeal can only be taken from the final judgment, and within
sixty days thereafter." Iowa Code § 793.2 (1954).
The statute was thereafter amended to include the clarifying
language "judgment of sentence." Iowa Code
§ 814.6 (1983) (emphasis added). This language continues
today. See Iowa Code § 814.6(1)(a)
consistent with the general rule that the "[f]inal
judgment in a criminal case means sentence."
Daughenbaugh v. State, 805 N.W.2d 591, 595 (Iowa
2011) (quoting Burton v. Stewart, 549 U.S. 147, 156,
127 S.Ct. 793, 798 (2007)); see also State v. Loye,
670 N.W.2d 141, 146 (Iowa 2003). "In criminal cases, as
well as civil, the judgment is final for the purpose of
appeal 'when it terminates the litigation between the
parties on the merits' and 'leaves nothing to be done
but to enforce by execution what has been determined.'
" State v. Aumann, 236 N.W.2d 320, 321-22 (Iowa
1975) (quoting State v. Klinger, 259 Iowa 381, 383,
144 N.W.2d 150, 151 (1966)). In contrast, "decisions,
opinions, findings, or verdicts do not constitute a judgment
or decree." Iowa W. Racing Ass'n v. Iowa Racing
& Gaming Comm'n, 578 N.W.2d 663, 664 (Iowa 1998)
(quoting Wilson v. Corbin, 241 Iowa 226, 228, 40
N.W.2d 472, 474 (1950)).
final sentencing order in this case was entered on August 16,
2011. Propps brought a motion to correct an illegal sentence
on July 31, 2014, and the district court denied the motion on
January 13, 2015. In the ruling denying Propps's motion,
the district court neither disturbed the underlying sentence
nor entered a new judgment of sentence. An appeal as of right
under Iowa Code section 814.6(1)(a) on the grounds
of appealing a "final judgment of sentence" was
improper in this case. The final judgment of sentence
occurred three years prior. However, this does not resolve
the jurisdictional issue here.
criminal defendant may challenge an illegal sentence at any
time under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24. Iowa R.
Crim. P. 2.24(5)(a); see also State v.
Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 869 (Iowa 2009). A defendant
may appeal the denial of a motion to correct an illegal
sentence by applying for discretionary review under either
Iowa Code section 814.6(2)(e) or Iowa Rule of
Appellate Procedure 6.106. Iowa Code §
814.6(2)(e) (allowing discretionary review of
"[a]n order raising a question of law important to the
judiciary and the profession"); Iowa R. App. P. 6.106
("An application for discretionary review may be filed
to review certain orders specified by statute which are not
subject to appeal as a matter of right."). A defendant
may also appeal the denial of a motion to correct an illegal
sentence by petition for writ of certiorari under Iowa Rule
of Appellate Procedure 6.107. Iowa R. App. P.
6.107(1)(a) ("Any party claiming a district
court judge . . . exceeded the judge's jurisdiction or
otherwise acted illegally may commence an original certiorari
action in the supreme court by filing a petition for writ of
certiorari."). Because section 814.6(1)(a) does
not apply to a defendant's motion to correct an illegal
sentence, one of these actions would have been the proper
method for bringing such a challenge.
a "court has inherent power to determine whether it has
jurisdiction over the subject matter of the proceedings
before it." Klinge v. Bentien, 725 N.W.2d 13,
15 (Iowa 2006) (quoting Tigges v. City of Ames, 356
N.W.2d 503, 512 (Iowa 1984)). Discretionary review is
available under section 814.6 to orders "raising a
question of law important to the judiciary and the
profession." Iowa Code § 814.6(2)(e).
Additionally, if a case is initiated by a notice of appeal,
but another form of review is proper, we may choose to
proceed as though the proper form of review was requested by
the defendant rather than dismiss the action. Iowa R. App. P.
6.108. Accordingly, we will treat Propps's notice of
appeal and accompanying briefs as a petition for writ of
certiorari, as we conclude that appeals from a motion to
correct an illegal sentence are most appropriately fashioned
in this manner. We grant the petition for writ of certiorari.
Standard of Review.
unconstitutional sentence is an illegal sentence, and
therefore may be corrected at any time. State v.
Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 382 (Iowa 2014); see also
Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(5)(a). While we ordinarily
review challenges to illegal sentences for correction of
legal errors, our standard of review for an allegation of an
unconstitutional sentence is de novo. Lyle, 854
N.W.2d at 382.
Indeterminate Sentencing and Parole.
determinate sentence imposes a specific number of years of
imprisonment on a defendant, while an indeterminate sentence
is one in which the legislature has set a range of the
minimum and maximum amount of years deemed appropriate for
the crime. See, e.g., 6 Wayne R. LaFave et al.,
Criminal Procedure § 26.1(c) (2016).
Indeterminate sentences are parole eligible, while
determinate sentences are not. Id. In this case, the
district court sentenced Propps to four indeterminate
sentences with no mandatory minimum sentence, making Propps
immediately eligible for parole.
incarcerated individual is eligible for parole, the Iowa
Board of Parole is required to hold yearly file reviews. Iowa
Code § 906.5(1)(a); see also Iowa
Board of Parole, FAQ/Information,
http://www.bop.state.ia.us/BoardFaq (last visited
Mar. 20, 2017) (stating the board of parole is required to
hold yearly reviews for every eligible offender) [hereinafter
Iowa Board of Parole, FAQ/Information].
the board of parole reviews a file, it may choose to give the
offender work release, deny release, or set up an interview.
Iowa Code § 906.3, .5. If the board sets up an
interview, it uses the interview to determine whether the
individual offender should be released to the community under
parole supervision for the remainder of the sentence.
Id. When making the decision to release an inmate on
parole, the board considers a number of factors, including
a. Previous criminal record;
b. Nature and circumstances of the offense;
c. Recidivism record;
d. Convictions or behavior indicating a propensity
e. Participation in institutional programs,
including academic and vocational training;
f. Psychiatric and psychological evaluations;
g. Length of time served;
h. Evidence of serious or habitual institutional
i. Success or failure while on probation;
j. Prior parole or work release history;
k. Prior refusal to accept parole or work ...