from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Robert J.
Dull, District Associate Judge.
Goulette appeals from convictions of three counts of criminal
B. Brock II of the Law Office of Robert B. Brock II, P.C., Le
Mars, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
Goulette, an avid hunter, drove his truck onto three parcels
of property he did not own and lacked permission to enter.
His truck got stuck on one of the parcels. The next morning,
Goulette checked the forecast and learned rain was expected
at noon. He asked a friend to help him retrieve the truck.
When their efforts were unsuccessful, Goulette enlisted the
help of a farmer, who drove his front-end loader to the site.
There was a downpour, the front-end loader slid into a
ravine, and Goulette did not retrieve his truck that day or
for another three weeks.
State charged Goulette with three counts of trespass, in
violation of Iowa code sections 716.7 and 716.8(2) (2015). A
jury found him guilty as charged.
appeal, Goulette contends the district court should have
instructed the jury on the "act of God" defense and
on his lack of responsibility "for any damage done
by" the farmer. The State preliminarily responds with
error preservation and waiver-of-error concerns. We elect to
bypass these concerns and proceed to the merits. See,
e.g., State v. Taylor, 596 N.W.2d 55, 56 (Iowa
1999); Wright v. State, No. 98-1581, 2000 WL 564037,
at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. May 10, 2000).
requested instruction must be given if it "correctly
states the law, has application to the case, and is not
stated elsewhere in the instructions." State v.
Martinez, 679 N.W.2d 620, 623 (Iowa 2004) (quoting
State v. Kellogg, 542 N.W.2d 514, 516 (Iowa 1996)).
Our review of "[a]lleged errors in the submission or
refusal to submit jury instructions" is for
"correction of errors at law." State v.
Tipton, N.W.2d,, 2017 WL 2705390, at *31 (Iowa 2017)
(citing Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 880
N.W.2d 699, 707 (Iowa 2016)).
act of God defense 'is founded upon reason and justice
that one should not be held responsible for that which he
could not have reasonably anticipated, and could not have
taken reasonable precautions to guard against.'"
Lanz v. Pearson, 475 N.W.2d 601, 603 (Iowa 1991)
(quoting Oakes v. Peter Pan Bakers, Inc., 138 N.W.2d
93, 98 (Iowa 1965)). Goulette's proposed instruction
defined an act of God as "[a]n injury to person or
property caused directly and exclusively by natural causes,
without human intervention, and which could not have been
prevented by the exercise of reasonable care and
foresight." If the jury found "1. That the act of
God occurred; and 2. That the act of God was the sole cause
of the damage, " the jury would also have been obligated
to find Goulette not guilty. The proposed instruction was
premised on the rainfall on the day of the attempted truck
without deciding that the act of God instruction correctly
stated the law and was not stated elsewhere in the
instructions, it had no application to the case. See
id. at 603-04. While rain fell, it was indisputably
anticipated by Goulette and it was indisputably not the sole
cause of damage to the properties. Compare id.
(concluding act of God instruction was improper where
individuals were aware of inclement weather conditions),
with Oakes, 138 N.W.2d at 98 (concluding act of God
instruction was proper where weather conditions were "an
extraordinary manifestation of nature not reasonably
anticipated"). Because the instruction was unsupported
by the evidence, the district court did not err in declining
to give it.
request to instruct the jury that he should be absolved of
responsibility for damage caused by the farmer suffers the
same fate but for a different reason-it was an inaccurate
statement of the law.
jury was instructed that the State would have to prove
Goulette "caused" damage of more than $200 to each
property. "Generally, causation exists in criminal law,
often without much fanfare, as a doctrine justifying the
imposition of criminal responsibility by requiring a
'sufficient causal relationship between the
defendant's conduct and the proscribed harm.'"
State v. Tribble, 790 N.W.2d 121, 126 (Iowa 2010)
(quoting State v. Marti,290 N.W.2d 570, 584 (Iowa
1980)). "When causation does surface as an issue in a
criminal case, our law normally requires us to consider if
the criminal act was a factual cause of the harm."
Id. at 126-27. "The conduct of a defendant is a
'factual cause of harm when the harm would not have
occurred absent the conduct.'" Id. at ...