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State v. Hellberg

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 10, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
KRISTINA LEIGHANN HELLBERG, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Decatur County, Sherman W. Phipps, Judge.

         A defendant challenges her written guilty plea based on the district court's failure to advise her of potential immigration consequences.

          Susan R. Stockdale, Windsor Heights, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         Kristina Hellberg signed a written guilty plea, admitting she operated a vehicle without the owner's consent. She now seeks reversal of her conviction because the plea form did not include the immigration advisory required by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)(b). Because the record is silent on Hellberg's immigration status and her guilty plea did not substantially comply with the rule, we reverse and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         On December 28, 2016, Hellberg took her mother's Ford F150 truck without her mother's permission. The mother reported the missing truck to the Decatur County Sheriff's Office. Officers recovered the truck from Hellberg several days later. The State charged Hellberg with first-degree theft, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 714.1(2) and 714.2(1) (2016).

         Hellberg pleaded guilty to operating a vehicle without the owner's consent, an aggravated misdemeanor, in violation of Iowa Code section 714.7. In exchange, the State agreed to recommend a sentence of sixteen days imprisonment with credit for sixteen days served, as well as a suspended fine of $625 with a thirty-five percent surcharge. Hellberg agreed to pay other applicable surcharges, court costs, restitution, and fees. Hellberg entered a written plea. The written form informed Hellberg that any challenge to the guilty plea must be made by motion in arrest of judgment, but the form did not include the appeal consequences arising from a failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment. The form also made no mention of possible immigration consequences that could result from a guilty plea. The district court accepted the plea, sentenced Hellberg to time served, suspended the fine, and ordered her to pay other related costs.

         Hellberg now appeals, contending her written guilty plea was deficient because the court did not advise her that a conviction could result in adverse immigration consequences. The State filed a motion to affirm Hellberg's conviction, arguing this appeal is "frivolous" because nothing in the minutes of evidence or her appellate brief suggests Hellberg is not a United States citizen or that the immigration advisory "would have affected her decision to plead guilty." Our supreme court denied the State's motion and, after full briefing, transferred the appeal to us.

         II. Scope and Standards of Review

         We will review Hellberg's challenge to her guilty plea for the correction of errors at law. See State v. Meron, 675 N.W.2d 537, 540 (Iowa 2004). To determine whether her plea satisfies Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)(b), we look for substantial compliance. See State v. Weitzel, __ N.W.2d__, __, 2017 WL 6545937, at *7 (Iowa 2017) (noting preference for strict compliance, but acknowledging caselaw has excused technical violations).

         III. ...


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