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Maxwell v. Iowa Department of Public Safety

Supreme Court of Iowa

October 20, 2017


         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P. McLellan, Judge.

         Defendant convicted of sex offense appeals district court ruling requiring him to register as a sex offender while he appealed his conviction after posting an appeal bond.

          Brandon Brown and Gina Messamer of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John R. Lundquist, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.


         This appeal raises a question of first impression: whether a defendant convicted of a sex offense must register as a sex offender under Iowa Code chapter 692A (2015) during his direct appeal of the conviction. The defendant argues he had no obligation to register after posting an appeal bond to stay execution of the underlying criminal judgment and before he began serving any prison sentence or was placed on probation. The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS), however, construed the statute to require his registration upon his conviction for the sex offense, notwithstanding his appeal. He challenged the DPS's legal conclusion in a petition for judicial review under Iowa Code chapter 17A. The district court ruled he was required to register as of the date he was sentenced to prison for the sex offense and was released on the appeal bond. His conviction for the underlying sex offense was later affirmed on direct appeal. Meanwhile, he now faces new criminal charges for violating chapter 692A's sex offender residency restrictions before his conviction was affirmed. The parties urge us to decide the registration issue through this chapter 17A appeal under the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine. We retained this appeal to do so.[1]

         On our review, we hold the defendant was required to register as a sex offender under section 692A.103(1) upon his conviction of the sex offense and release on bond, notwithstanding his appeal. The stay of execution on his criminal judgment during his appeal did not delay the automatic administrative registration requirement for convicted sex offenders, and his release on the appeal bond constituted a "release from incarceration" within the meaning of section 692A.103(1). Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On May 11, 2015, Brian James Maxwell was convicted in a nonjury trial of lascivious conduct with a minor, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.14. The court of appeals decision affirming his conviction gave this summary of the evidence:

Maxwell was hired March 1, 2014, to serve as a youth coordinator for two churches in the Winterset area. During his introduction to the youth group, Maxwell met the complaining witness, then age sixteen, and he and his wife decided to mentor her after she approached them with some of her personal struggles. . . .
The complaining witness testified Maxwell assaulted her on March 17 in the downstairs youth room at one of the churches by undoing her bra and having her lift up her shirt. She asserted Maxwell then touched, kissed, and licked her breasts, and rubbed her between her legs over her clothing . . . .
A week after the incident, the complaining witness broke down at home and disclosed the events of March 17 to her father and other members of her family. The police were called, and the complaining witness underwent a forensic interview with Mikki Hamdorf at the Blank Children's Hospital Regional Child Protection Center. After the interview and the investigation were completed, charges were filed against Maxwell that proceeded to trial to the court on April 21, 2015. After hearing testimony from the victim and her family, the investigating officer, the pastor and other staff and members of the church, another member of the youth group, and Maxwell's wife and his two sons, the court issued its verdict finding Maxwell guilty as charged. The court stated in its ruling that it found "the State's witnesses to be credible and the Defendant's witnesses to not be credible."

State v. Maxwell, No. 15-1392, 2016 WL 6652361, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 9, 2016).

         Maxwell was never incarcerated while his criminal case was pending. On August 18, 2015, the district court imposed a one-year sentence, to begin immediately, and ordered that "after Defendant has served one hundred twenty (120) days of the sentence, the remainder is suspended and Defendant is placed on probation for a period of two (2) years." Maxwell was also sentenced to a ten-year special sentence pursuant to Iowa Code section 903B.2. The same day, however, Maxwell filed a notice of appeal and posted an appeal bond. He remained free on bond.

         Two days later, the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services (DCS) informed Maxwell that he would not be required to report for probation or register with the sex offender registry. However, a month later, the DPS informed Maxwell by letter that he was required to report to the Madison County sheriff to register as a sex offender. The letter explained that "unless the attendant conviction has been 'reversed or otherwise set aside' as per IA §692A.101(7), the conviction qualifies for registration under Iowa Code Chapter 692A." Maxwell reported to the Madison County sheriff's office to complete the registration process on October 12. Maxwell is currently registered as a sex offender.

         After registering, Maxwell commenced an administrative appeal through an "Application for Determination" to the DPS. Maxwell also filed a "Petition for Judicial Review and Application for Injunctive Relief, " to enjoin the DPS from placing him on the sex offender registry during his criminal appeal.

         The DPS issued a "Decision of Determination" on December 30, concluding that Maxwell was required to register despite his pending appeal because the conviction had not been "overturned or otherwise set aside." DPS identified ...

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