from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L.
appeals from an order granting his application for
Alexander D. Smith of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble
Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Benjamin M. Parrott,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
the fourth time John Arnzen has filed an appeal arising out
of or related to his convictions for indecent contact with a
child. In the first appeal, we reversed the dismissal of
Arnzen's application for postconviction relief,
concluding he had been denied the opportunity to be heard and
had received ineffective assistance of postconviction
counsel. State v. Arnzen (Arnzen I), No.
10-1150, 2011 WL 3480977, at *5 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 10,
2011). In the second appeal, Arnzen unsuccessfully challenged
his civil commitment as a sexually violent predator pursuant
to Iowa Code chapter 229A (2001). In re Det. of
Arnzen (Arnzen II), No. 10-1340, 2012 WL
163239, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 19, 2012). In the third
appeal, Arnzen challenged the district court's procedure
in reviewing his status as a sexually violent predator.
See In re Det. of Arnzen (Arnzen III), No.
15-1490, 2016 WL 7403713, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 21,
2016). This appeal arises out of Arnzen's application for
postconviction relief, which was tried on the merits
following remand in Arnzen I. In this case, Arnzen
appeals from the district court's order granting
his application for postconviction relief.
understand the somewhat odd posture of this appeal, it is
necessary to understand the context in which it arises. The
relevant procedural posture was set forth in the second
In 2002, Arnzen pled guilty to three counts of indecent
contact with a child in violation of Iowa Code sections
709.12(1) and 709.12(4) (2001). Arnzen was sentenced to a
term of imprisonment not to exceed two years on each count,
with two counts to run concurrently and one count to run
consecutively to the other counts, for a total effective term
of four years. Because Arnzen had previously been convicted
of indecent contact with a child in 1986, his four-year
sentence was doubled to eight years and he was required to
serve eighty-five percent of his sentence before becoming
eligible for parole or work release. See Iowa Code
§ 901A.2(1). January 28, 2009, was the date that Arnzen
was expected to be released from incarceration for that
sentence. Arnzen was also sentenced to serve an additional
two years of parole or work release for each of the three
counts. Id. § 901A.2(7).
Prior to Arnzen's release, the department of corrections
notified the Attorney General and the multidisciplinary team.
Id. § 229A.3(1)(a) (2007). On July 12, 2007,
the multidisciplinary team convened and notified the Attorney
General of its assessment that Arnzen met the criteria for
definition as an SVP. Id. § 229A.3(4).
On December 9, 2008, Arnzen met with the Iowa Board of
Parole. The next day, the prosecutor's review committee
convened and determined that Arnzen met the definition of an
SVP. Id. § 229A.3(5). The Attorney General
filed a petition alleging Arnzen to be an SVP on December 17,
2008. Id. § 229A.4(1). The State alleged that
Arnzen was an SVP because he had been convicted of a sexually
violent offense and he suffers from "a mental
abnormality which makes the person likely to engage in
predatory acts constituting sexually violent offenses, if not
confined in a secure facility." Id. §
Despite the two assessments and the petition alleging Arnzen
to be an SVP, the parole board issued a work release order on
December 30, 2008, granting Arnzen work release status on his
anticipated release date. In granting the work release, the
parole board determined that there was "a reasonable
probability" that Arnzen could "be released without
detriment to the community" and was "able and
willing to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding
citizen." Id. § 906.4.
The district court held a probable cause hearing on January
6, 2009. Id. § 229A.5(2). The following day,
the district court entered an order finding probable cause
existed to believe Arnzen to be an SVP. Id. §
229A.5(4)(b). The district court ordered that upon the date
of Arnzen's scheduled release, he should remain in the
custody of the department of corrections pending final
disposition of the SVP matter. Id. § 229A.5(1).
The district court further ordered that Arnzen be transferred
to an appropriate secure facility to undergo an evaluation to
determine whether he is an SVP. Id. §
On June 17, 2009, Arnzen moved to dismiss the SVP petition
arguing pro se that the State had filed the petition for
civil commitment prematurely because he had not been allowed
to complete his work release, and the State violated his plea
agreement by ...