Certiorari from the Iowa District Court for Jasper County,
Terry R. Rickers, Judge.
Benford appeals the denial of his motion to correct an
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Potterfield, J., and Carr,
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Benford pled guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and enticing
away a minor. See Iowa Code §§
709.4(2)(c)(4), 710.10(2) (2009). The district court
sentenced him to prison terms not exceeding ten and five
years, respectively, to be served consecutively. The court
also imposed a special sentence authorized by Iowa Code
and his attorney separately filed motions to correct an
illegal sentence. Counsel asserted the special sentence as
applied to Benford's circumstances constituted cruel and
unusual punishment under article I, section 17 of the Iowa
Constitution. Following an evidentiary hearing, the district
court denied the motion. The court reasoned, "Currently,
Benford is in prison and he refuses to sign the parole
agreement because it contains numerous conditions that he
feels are unconstitutional. Until he is subject to those
conditions, his claim is not yet ripe for review."
Iowa Supreme Court treated Benford's notice of appeal as
an application for writ of certiorari. The court granted the
sole question before us is whether the district court erred
in concluding Benford's constitutional challenge to the
section 903B.1 sentence was not ripe for adjudication. In
State v. Tripp, the Iowa Supreme Court addressed the
same question and held "the issue of whether the
imposition of a lifetime parole sentence to the crime of
third-degree sexual abuse constitutes cruel and unusual
punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United
States Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa
Constitution is not ripe for adjudication." 776 N.W.2d
855, 859 (Iowa 2010). The court reasoned Tripp was not
currently on parole and might not serve lifetime parole.
Tripp, 776 N.W.2d at 858. The court also stated the
court did not have "the benefit of any conditions that
may be placed on him in the future." Id. at
858-59. Finally, the court pointed out "[b]oth issues
involve administrative decisions that have yet to be
made." Id. at 859.
acknowledges this precedent but argues Tripp is
incorrect and distinguishable. First, he asserts the court
was incorrect in pointing to the unknown date on which an
offender might be released from the special sentence and
should have instead focused on "the maximum
duration of the special sentence." Second, Benford
argues "we . . . know the supervisory terms under which
he would serve his special sentence" because he
introduced a copy of the parole agreement the department of
corrections wanted him to sign. We are unpersuaded by either
was convicted under the same statutory provision as Benford.
See id. at 856. The court in Tripp
found the constitutional issue unripe for adjudication based
on "the possibility of release from parole under chapter
906 if the parole board determines that the offender is
'able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a
law-abiding citizen without further supervision.'"
Id. at 858 (quoting Iowa Code § 906.15). We
recognize section 906.15 contains a caveat stating
a person convicted of a violation of section 709.3, 709.4, or
709.8 committed on or with a child, or a person serving a
sentence under section 902.12, shall not be discharged from
parole until the person's term of parole equals the
period of imprisonment specified in the person's
sentence, less all time served in confinement.
this language was in the statute when Tripp was
decided and did not alter the court's reasoning. The