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State v. Pattison

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SHAWN ERIC PATTISON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Palo Alto County, David A. Lester, Judge. An habitual drug offender challenges his fifteen-year sentence as unconstitutional.

          Jack Bjornstad of Jack Bjornstad Law Office, Okoboji, for appellant.

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

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

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         The constitutionality of Shawn Pattison's prison sentence depends upon which of two scenarios accurately describes his situation. Pattison paints himself as a drug user, not a drug dealer, who received an indeterminate fifteen-year prison sentence without eligibility for parole for three years for possessing a single rock of methamphetamine. He contends his sentence violates the due process and cruel and unusual punishment clauses of the state constitution. The State poses a different question: Does it offend the Iowa Constitution to punish a three-time felony offender for possessing a small amount of methamphetamine? Adopting the State's comprehensive formulation of the issue, we find no constitutional violation and affirm Pattison's sentence.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Pattison received his first adult criminal conviction in 1999, according to the presentence investigation report prepared for this case. Relevant to the sentencing issue on appeal, in 2002, Pattison was convicted of eluding, a class "D" felony. In 2004, Pattison was convicted of methamphetamine possession, second offense. In 2007, Pattison was convicted of possession of marijuana, third offense. In 2009, Pattison was convicted of burglary in the third degree, also a class "D" felony.

         In September 2015, a deputy with the Palo Alto Sheriff's Office went to Pattison's home to execute an arrest warrant. When the deputy stopped Pattison outside his residence, "[h]e kept putting his hands in his pockets." When searching Pattison's pocket incident to the arrest, the deputy found a baggie containing a rock of methamphetamine, which weighed .41 grams. The State charged Pattison with possession of a controlled substance, third or subsequent offense, a class "D" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2015). The State also alleged Pattison was an habitual felon in violation of Iowa Code section 902.9. A jury convicted Pattison on the possession charge, and he admitted having the prior felony convictions. The district court sentenced Pattison to an indeterminate fifteen-year term of incarceration under Iowa Code section 902.9(1)(c), with a "mandatory minimum term" of three years under section 902.8.

         On appeal, Pattison challenges only the constitutionality of his sentence.[1]

         II. Preservation of Error and Standard of Review

         Pattison may contest the legality of his sentence at any time. See State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 869 (Iowa 2009) (recognizing certain constitutional challenges fall under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24(5)(a)). We review constitutional questions de novo. See id. As courts, we give a strong presumption of constitutionality to legislative determinations concerning terms of imprisonment. See State v. Lara, 580 N.W.2d 783, 785 (Iowa 1998). "We will not declare a statute constitutionally bad unless it is clearly, palpably, and without doubt violative of a constitutional right." State v. Kramer, 235 N.W.2d 114, 117 (Iowa 1975).

         III. Constitutional Challenges A. Due Process of Law

         Pattison first contends his prison sentence violates the substantive due process protection in the Iowa Constitution. At issue is the following clause: "[N]o person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, ...


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