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State v. Clemens

Supreme Court of Iowa

October 27, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
BRIAN PATRICK CLEMENS, Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Randy DeGeest, Judge.

         An individual appeals the denial of his motion to expunge the record of a dismissed simple misdemeanor proceeding. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Emily Willits and David M. Ranscht, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

          MANSFIELD, Justice.

         I. Introduction.

         What is 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).

         In 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.

         In 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 901C.2(1)(a)(1).

         On our 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 proceedings.

         II. Facts and Procedural Background.

         On the 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.

         Clemens 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.

         On May 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 speedy trial.

         Several 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."

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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 ...

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