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State v. Cox

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 20, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JESSICA ZOE ZEIEN COX, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Chickasaw County, Richard D. Stochl, Judge.

         A defendant challenges her sentence for serious injury by vehicle.

          Adam R. Junaid of Frerichs Law Office, P.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., McDonald, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Jessica Zeien-Cox pleaded guilty to the charge of serious injury by vehicle, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A(4) (2015). At sentencing, she requested the district court defer judgment. The district court denied the request to defer judgment and instead sentenced Zeien-Cox to an indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed five years, suspended the sentence, and placed her on probation. Zeien-Cox challenges her sentence in this appeal, contending the district court abused its discretion in imposing sentence by considering impermissible information.

         We review sentencing decisions for correction of errors at law. See State v. Witham, 583 N.W.2d 677, 678 (Iowa 1997). We will not disturb a sentence unless the defendant demonstrates an abuse of discretion or a defect in the sentencing procedure. See State v. Formaro, 638 N.W.2d 720, 724 (Iowa 2002); State v. Gonzalez, 582 N.W.2d 515, 516 (Iowa 1998). Resentencing is required if a court considers improper information at the time of sentencing. State v. Grandberry, 619 N.W.2d 399, 401 (Iowa 2000).

         At issue in this case is whether it was proper for the district court to consider Zeien-Cox's intimate relationship with a man subject to an arrest warrant as an aggravating factor in imposing sentence. Specifically, the presentencing investigation report (PSI) contained the following information:

The defendant is single and not in a relationship at this time. She reports being pregnant with twins as a result of a relationship with William Charles Anderson . . . . She reports he is in North Dakota and they broke up after five months due to arguments. She hopes they will reconcile. She denies he has any history of arrest, substance abuse or mental health problems. However, on line court records indicate there is an active warrant for William's arrest for felony drug charges in Black Hawk County . . . . The warrant was issued in August 2016 after Tri County Drug Task Force executed a search warrant at his Cedar Falls apartment allegedly finding marijuana, hashish and a .40-caliber handgun.

         At the sentencing hearing, the district court explained its reasons for imposing sentence:

THE COURT: Jessica Zoe Zeien-Cox, you are hereby adjudged guilty of the offense of serious injury by vehicle in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A(4). I do not believe that a deferred judgment is appropriate under these circumstances. I've reviewed the [PSI], and one thing that does concern me is the fact that after this incident occurred, you were in a relationship with a man whose house was subjected-or a search warrant was executed on his home. Marijuana, hashish, and a .40-caliber revolver were in his home. That was in August of 2016. According to the PSI, you are about two months pregnant, so you continued to have a relationship with him after he was arrested. Is that incorrect?
THE DEFENDANT: That is incorrect. I had no idea that he had been in ...

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