review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeffrey D.
seeks further review of a denial of a motion to correct an
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Timothy M. Hau and Kevin R.
Cmelik, Assistant Attorneys General, John P. Sarcone, County
Attorney, and Nan Horvat, Assistant County Attorney, for
case, Bradley Graham, a juvenile offender convicted of one
count of sex abuse in the third degree, challenges his
lifetime special sentence of parole and the lifetime
requirement that he register as a sex offender as cruel and
unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United
States Constitution and under article I, section 17 of the
Iowa Constitution. The district court held Graham's
lifetime special sentence and lifetime registration
requirement were not cruel and unusual punishment because a
juvenile offender could petition the Iowa Department of
Corrections for discharge from both the lifetime special
sentence and the lifetime registration requirement.
appealed on the grounds that the special sentence and
registration requirements violated the Cruel and Unusual
Punishment and Due Process Clauses of the United States and
Iowa Constitutions. The court of appeals affirmed the
district court. We granted further review. We now affirm the
decision of the court of appeals and the judgment of the
Factual and Procedural Background.
Guilty Plea to One Count of Sexual Abuse.
was charged in 2010 with three counts of sexual abuse in the
third degree in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1
(defining sexual abuse), 709.4(1) (sexual abuse in the third
degree by force or against the will), and
709.4(2)(b) (sexual abuse in the third degree and
the other person is twelve or thirteen years old) (2009) for
conduct occurring when Graham was seventeen years old. These
charges related to sex acts that allegedly occurred involving
Graham and T.C. when T.C. was thirteen years of age.
November 15, 2010, Graham pled guilty to one count of
third-degree sexual abuse as the result of a sex act with
T.C. when Graham was seventeen years of age and T.C. was
thirteen years of age. See Iowa Code §
709.4(2)(b). Graham did not plead guilty on the
basis of "by force or against the will" under Iowa
Code section 709.4(1). Graham was immediately sentenced to an
indeterminate period not to exceed ten years. Under Iowa Code
section 903B.1, Graham was sentenced to a special sentence of
lifetime supervision by the department of corrections. Graham
was also required to register for life on the sex offender
registry when he was released under Iowa Code section
Motion and Hearing on Illegal Sentence.
September 6, 2013, Graham filed a pro se motion to correct an
illegal sentence. In the handwritten explanation accompanying
the motion, Graham argued, among other things, that the
special sentence of lifetime parole and lifetime sex offender
registration requirement were "inhumane" because he
was a juvenile at the time of the offense.
hearing was held on Graham's motion on September 4, 2014.
The State did not contest whether Graham should receive a
resentencing hearing. The district court ordered a
resentencing hearing based on the agreement of the parties.
to the hearing on resentencing, Graham was discharged from
incarceration and began serving his lifetime special
sentence. Pursuant to the lifetime special sentence, Graham
was placed at a work-release program at the Fort Des Moines
Community Corrections Center. According to an officer at the
work-release program, Graham was participating in sex
offender treatment and other support programs while at the
resentencing hearing was held on August 18, 2015.
Graham's appointed counsel did not modify Graham's
original application. Graham's counsel also did not file
a brief before the district court.
resentencing hearing, Graham's counsel argued that under
Iowa Code section 901.5(14) (2015), the judge could suspend
any part of a juvenile's sentence in whole or in part,
including the special sentence of lifetime parole.
Graham's counsel asked the judge to suspend all but ten
years of the special sentence of lifetime parole.
Graham's counsel argued the special sentence of lifetime
parole was punitive, because if Graham violated the terms of
parole, Graham would face additional prison time.
Graham's counsel specifically did not challenge a special
sentence of parole of up to ten years. Graham's counsel
challenged the sentence only to the extent it imposed a
lifetime of parole.
counsel also argued that "the 2, 000-foot rule"
established in Iowa Code section 692A.114 was punitive and
the court had the authority to suspend part of the sentence
under section 901.5(14). Graham's counsel noted that if
Graham violated the 2000-foot rule, new criminal charges may
be filed under Iowa Code section 692A.111. Graham's
counsel asked the court to immediately suspend the 2000-foot
rule as it applied to Graham.
support of his motion for resentencing, Graham offered an
August 17, 2015 email from his parole officer, James Michels.
According to Michels, Graham arrived at the Fort Des Moines
Community Corrections Center on April 15, 2015. He had
obtained employment and was a hard worker. He was attending a
sex offender treatment group and was on time and
participating in the group. Since coming to the facility,
Graham had been written up for two major violations, one
involving being out of place and the other for possession or
use of alcohol. Michels concluded that Graham "has been
honest when he made poor choices and accepted the
consequences." Michels expressed the hope "that his
special [sentence] can be modified due to his offense
happening when he was 17 years old."
question of whether the special lifetime sentence of parole
was cruel and unusual, the State argued Graham was not
without hope. The State asserted Graham could request the
department of corrections to release him from his special
sentence of lifetime parole at any time. See Iowa
Code § 906.15. Likewise, the State argued, Graham could
apply to the department of corrections to be released from
the sex offender registry requirement. See id.
State argued the district court could not reduce the lifetime
special sentence to a special sentence of a term of years or
suspend the sex offender registration requirement. According
to the State, Graham's sole recourse was to request a
modification of the special sentence or registration
requirements through the appropriate administrative channels.
addition to Michels's letter, the district court also had
before it Graham's original presentence investigation and
a progress report. The presentence investigation outlined a
history of juvenile and adult infractions, mostly involving
burglary and theft. As a juvenile, Graham resided for a
period of time at the Eldora Training School, earning a high
school diploma there. Graham reported he had been physically
abused by his mother's boyfriend when he was around seven
or eight years old. He was taken away from his mother at age
eight and lived with his grandmother until she passed away.
At that time, he began living with his mother again and
started "getting into trouble." Graham reported
contact and visits with his father, who was serving a
twenty-five-year prison sentence in Anamosa State Prison.
court progress report dated May 12, 2015, indicated that
Graham had a risk assessment score for violence of "3
(moderate)" and a victimization score of "4
(moderate/high)." The progress report listed a number of
infractions in prison. Because of scheduling and disciplinary
reasons, he was unable to complete the sex offender treatment
program prior to his release on parole. The progress report
indicated that Graham met diagnostic criteria for substance
dependence or abuse related to marijuana and alcohol.
According to assessment tools utilized by the department of
corrections, Graham was categorized in a group that had
"a below average probability of success and an above
average chance of violent criminal activity." The
department of corrections' recommendations were "for
compliance with [an] on-going mental health treatment plan
and continued participation in an intensive sex offender
the State concluded its argument, the district court gave
Graham an opportunity to make a statement, which he declined.
The court found that Graham was eligible for parole on the
day he began his special sentence. According to the court,
the special sentence did not carry with it any mandatory
minimum. The court emphasized that it did not believe it had
the authority to "stop the special sentence at a certain
point in time." The court read Iowa Code section
901.5(14) as authorizing it to enter a suspended sentence or
suspend part of a mandatory sentence, but not to cut off
Graham's special sentence.
district court did not expressly address the issue of
Graham's challenge to the 2000-foot rule. But it stated,
And the Sex Offender Registry laws are going to apply to you.
But they apply to anyone that commits a sex offense. And
there's other case law to suggest that's not a
violation of the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the
Constitution either. So I think that decision is compliant
with the law that governs what I have to do.
the hearing, the district court entered a written order. The
court ruled the special sentence was not cruel and unusual.
Citing State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 400 (Iowa
2014), the court noted the length of the sentence was not
unconstitutional and the court did not have the authority to
cut the length of the special sentence. The court did not
specifically address in its written order the
constitutionality of the 2000-foot rule of the sex offender
registry. The court denied Graham's motion to correct an
appealed. We transferred the case to the court of appeals.
Issues Raised on Appeal.
initial matter, the court of appeals held that a defendant
does not have a right of appeal for a denial of a motion to
correct an illegal sentence. The court therefore chose to
treat Graham's appeal as a petition for writ of
certiorari and granted the writ. The court declined to extend
our juvenile cruel-and-unusual-punishment cases to lifetime
special sentence or sex offender registration categorically
with respect to juveniles. See State v. Sweet, 879
N.W.2d 811 (Iowa 2016); Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378;
State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107 (Iowa 2013);
State v. Null, 836 N.W.2d 41 (Iowa 2013). The court
of appeals also held the special sentence and sex offender
registration were not grossly disproportionate to the gravity
of Graham's offense, especially given the availability of
early discharge and modification. Finally, the court of
appeals held that Graham's due process challenges to his
sentence were not preserved because they were not raised
before the district court.
applied for further review. We granted Graham's
application. On appeal, Graham claims (1) a mandatory special
sentence of lifetime parole is categorically cruel and
unusual punishment and violates due process when imposed on a
juvenile, (2) mandatory lifetime sex offender registration is
categorically cruel and unusual punishment and violates due
process when imposed upon a juvenile, and (3) a mandatory
special sentence of lifetime parole and mandatory lifetime
sex offender registration, ...