from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Randy
individual appeals the denial of his motion to expunge the
record of a dismissed simple misdemeanor proceeding. REVERSED
Messamer and Brandon Brown of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles
Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Emily Willits and David M.
Ranscht, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.
a "criminal case"? Today, we are asked to answer
this seemingly simple question in the context of Iowa's
recently enacted expungement law. That law mandates
expungement of the record when "[t]he criminal case
contains one or more criminal charges in which an acquittal
was entered for all criminal charges, or in which all
criminal charges were otherwise dismissed." Iowa Code
§ 901C.2(1)(a)(1) (2017).
2011, the defendant in this case was charged with several
aggravated misdemeanors in a multicount trial information. At
approximately the same time, he was separately charged by
criminal complaint with a simple misdemeanor. Later, the
defendant reached an agreement to plead guilty to a lesser
included offense of one count of the trial information. All
other charges, including the simple misdemeanor criminal
complaint, were dismissed.
2016, following enactment of the expungement law, the
defendant sought expungement of the record of the dismissed
simple-misdemeanor complaint. The State resisted. Both the
magistrate and the district court denied relief. They
reasoned that the misdemeanor was factually related to the
offense to which the defendant had pled guilty in the trial
information, and thus, both comprised a single criminal
"case" within the meaning of section
review, we disagree. Although both sides advance reasonable
interpretations of the law, we believe the defendant's
view that "criminal case" as used in section 901C.2
refers to a single numbered legal proceeding is more sound
for a number of reasons. Among other things, the
defendant's position is consistent with our prior
interpretations of the term in other contexts; it is
supported by the legislative history; and it is easier to
administer. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's
judgment denying expungement and remand for further
Facts and Procedural Background.
afternoon of May 21, 2011, L.P. informed Oskaloosa police
that Clemens had been in a physical altercation with her and
had threatened her. L.P. also reported seeing a handgun in
the center console of Clemens's truck. Clemens left the
scene before police arrived. Based on a law enforcement
bulletin, the Iowa State Patrol located Clemens outside of
his hometown of Ottumwa. At that time, he had two
semiautomatic handguns in his vehicle, as well as
prescription drugs in the name of another person.
was arrested. Oskaloosa police filed criminal complaints on
May 23 in Case No. AGIN107785 accusing Clemens of two counts
of carrying weapons, one count of first-degree harassment,
and two counts of unlawful possession of prescription drugs.
See Iowa Code §§ 155A.21, .23;
id. § 708.7(2); id. § 724.4(1)
(2011). All of these are aggravated misdemeanors.
Additionally, a separate criminal complaint was filed in Case
No. SMSM168241 accusing Clemens of domestic abuse assault, a
simple misdemeanor. See id. §
708.2A(2)(a). The charges were split into two legal
proceedings because the domestic abuse assault charge, as a
simple misdemeanor, was not an indictable offense.
31, a trial information was approved and filed in Case No.
AGIN107785 charging Clemens with two counts of carrying
weapons, one count of first-degree harassment, and two counts
of unlawful possession of prescription drugs. Clemens waived
months later, Clemens moved to sever the carrying weapons and
prescription drug charges from the remaining charge in
AGIN107785. Clemens maintained the weapons and drug charges
arose out of the stop by the Iowa State Patrol, a separate
incident from the earlier confrontation with L.P. The
district court granted severance of the prescription drug
charges but deferred ruling on severance of the carrying
weapons charges, making that "subject to further motion
by the defendant."
March 5, 2012, pursuant to a plea agreement, Clemens pled
guilty to third-degree harassment, a lesser included offense
of first-degree harassment. As part of the plea agreement,
the unlawful possession of prescription drug charges, one of
the carrying weapons charges, and the domestic abuse assault
charges were dismissed. The State also entered into a
deferred prosecution agreement as to the other carrying
weapons charge. That charge was later dismissed.
August 22, 2016, Clemens moved for expungement of the record
in SMSM168241, the simple misdemeanor proceeding in which he
had previously been charged with domestic abuse assault.
See Iowa Code § 901C.2 (2017). Clemens
maintained that this "case" had been dismissed and
that the other statutory criteria for expungement had also
been met. See id. The State resisted. On September
21, a magistrate judge denied Clemens's motion. Clemens
appealed to the district court.
November 8, the district court entered an order affirming the
magistrate's denial of expungement. The court reasoned,
The indictable misdemeanors were filed by trial information
in AGIN107885 per Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.5. The
simple misdemeanor domestic abuse assault charged in
SMSM168241 was charged by complaint and affidavit as required
by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.54. The simple
misdemeanor could not have been added as a count in
AGIN107885 under the rules. This does not fail to make it
part of the original "case." The lesser included
harassment charge that the defendant pled guilty to and was
convicted of in Count 2 of the trial information derives from
the same set of circumstances as the charge in SMSM168241,
the May 21, 2011 threats and altercation at the storage
facility in Mahaska County. They are part of the same case by
definition. Therefore the requirement under Iowa Code ...