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Rivera v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

VICTOR RIVERA, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Colleen D. Weiland, Judge.

         Applicant appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Dylan J. Thomas, Mason City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Victor Rivera, while driving under the influence of alcohol, caused a traffic accident that killed a motorcyclist and seriously injured the motorcyclist's passenger. Rivera fled the scene in his vehicle and led officers on a short chase before he was apprehended. Rivera pleaded guilty to unintentionally causing the death of another by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A(1) (2013), and failure to stop in the event of an accident resulting in death, in violation of Iowa Code section 321.261(4). The district court sentenced Rivera to an indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed twenty-five years for the first offense and five years for the second offense, said sentences to be served concurrently. The district court was required to and did impose a mandatory minimum sentence pursuant to Iowa Code section 902.12(6).[1] The district court ordered Rivera to pay $150, 000 in restitution pursuant to section 910.3B(1).

         This case arises out of Rivera's application for postconviction relief. In his application, Rivera claimed imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence violates his right to equal protection under the federal and state constitutions and the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the federal and state constitutions. He also claimed the restitution order violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment in the state and federal constitutions. The district court dismissed the application for postconviction relief, and Rivera filed this appeal. "[W]e review an allegedly unconstitutional sentence de novo." State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 382 (Iowa 2014) (citing State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 113 (Iowa 2013)).

         I.

         "To determine whether a statute violates equal protection, we first determine whether the statute makes a distinction between similarly situated individuals." State v. Mitchell, 757 N.W.2d 431, 436 (Iowa 2008) (citing Wright v. Iowa Dep't of Corr., 747 N.W.2d 213, 216 (Iowa 2008)). If there is a distinction between similarly situated individuals, then the statute is subject to rational basis review "because th[e] case does not involve a fundamental right or suspect classification." State v. Mann, 602 N.W.2d 785, 792 (Iowa 1999). The statute will be upheld so long as it makes a reasonable classification and it "operates equally upon all within the class." Id. (quoting State v. Ceaser, 585 N.W.2d 192, 196 (Iowa 1998), overruled on other grounds by State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009)). As a general rule, "[w]e apply the same analysis in considering [a] state equal protection claim as we do in considering [a] federal equal protection claim." Mann, 602 N.W.2d at 792 (second and third alterations in original) (quoting Ceaser, 585 N.W.2d at 196).

         Rivera challenges Iowa Code section 902.12(6). The statute provides:

A person serving a sentence for conviction of the following felonies . . . shall be denied parole or work release unless the person has served at least seven-tenths of the maximum term of the person's sentence:
1. Murder in the second degree in violation of section 707.3.
2. Attempted murder in violation of section 707.11.
3. Sexual abuse in the second degree in violation of ...

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