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State v. Sheppard

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES MATTHEW SHEPPARD III, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Gregory D. Brandt, District Associate Judge.

         James Sheppard appeals the sentence of incarceration imposed following his guilty plea to operating while intoxicated, third offense. AFFIRMED.

          Jessica A. Millage of Millage Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          Doyle, Presiding Judge

         James Sheppard appeals the sentence of incarceration imposed following his guilty plea to operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. He asserts the sentencing court abused its discretion in declining to grant him a suspended sentence. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         By trial information, Sheppard was charged, as a habitual offender, [1] with operating while intoxicated, third offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2, a class "D" felony.[2] Sheppard eventually entered into a plea agreement with the State wherein he would plead guilty as charged, the parties were free to argue the sentence to be imposed, and the State would not pursue the habitual-offender sentencing enhancement. Sheppard filed a written guilty plea. At a plea hearing, the plea court accepted Sheppard's guilty plea, ordered a presentence investigation (PSI) report, and set sentencing for a later date.

         About two months later, while out on bond, Sheppard picked up additional criminal charges-possession of crack cocaine and driving while license denied or revoked.[3] He was arrested and confined to the Polk County Jail, and his pretrial release bond was revoked.

         Later, a joint sentencing hearing was held on all the charges. For the OWI offense, Sheppard was sentenced to incarceration for a period not to exceed five years, to run concurrent with the possession sentence. The State did not pursue the habitual-offender sentencing enhancement. On the possession charge, Sheppard was sentenced to forty-seven days in jail and was given credit for the forty-seven days he had already spent in jail. The driving-while-revoked charge was dismissed. Sheppard now appeals, asserting the sentencing court abused its discretion in imposing a sentence of incarceration for the OWI offense.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review

         Our review of a district court's sentence is limited to the correction of legal error. See State v. Rodriguez, 804 N.W.2d 844, 848 (Iowa 2011). Imposition of a sentence "within the statutory limits is cloaked with a strong presumption in its favor, and will only be overturned for an abuse of discretion or the consideration of inappropriate matters." State v. Formaro, 638 N.W.2d 720, 724 (Iowa 2002). "Discretion expresses the notion of latitude." State v. McNeal, 897 N.W.2d 697, 710 (Iowa 2017) (Cady, C.J., concurring specially). An abuse of discretion will only be found when the court exercises its discretion on grounds clearly untenable or to an extent clearly unreasonable. See State v. Hopkins, 860 N.W.2d 550, 553 (Iowa 2015). This standard is deferential to the sentencing court:

Judicial discretion imparts the power to act within legal parameters according to the dictates of a judge's own conscience, uncontrolled by the judgment of others. It is essential to judging because judicial decisions frequently are not colored in black and white. Instead, they deal in differing shades of gray, and discretion is needed to give the necessary latitude to the decision-making process. This inherent latitude in the process properly limits our review. Thus, our task on appeal is not to ...

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