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State v. Harper

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BREEANNA MARIE HARPER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Joseph M. Moothart (suppression), Brook K. Jacobsen (bench trial), and Nathan A. Callahan (sentencing), District Associate Judges.

         Defendant appeals her conviction for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nan Jennisch, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Tabor, J., and Goodhue, S.J. [*]

          GOODHUE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Breeanna Marie Harper was charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana), first offense, a violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(5) (2016). She filed a motion to suppress, which was denied. Harper then submitted to a trial on the minutes of evidence and was convicted. Harper was sentenced to 180 days in the county jail, but the sentence was suspended. She was also sentenced to pay a fine of $315 plus the thirty-five-percent surcharge, a D.A.R.E. fee, and the law-enforcement-initiative fee, and was placed on supervised probation for a period of one to two years. The record for sentencing was waived, and the only reasons given for the sentence in the sentencing order were "nature of offense" and "prior record." Harper appeals. Her only basis for the appeal is the court's failure to state on the record sufficient reasons for selecting a particular sentence, as required by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.23(3)(d). Relevant facts will be included where appropriate.

         I. Preservation of Error

         The State does not contest error preservation.

         II. Standard of Review

         Sentences are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. State v. Hill, 878 N.W.2d 269, 272 (Iowa 2016). A trial court abuses its discretion when it exercises its discretion on grounds clearly untenable or unreasonable. Id.

         III. Discussion

         Our appellate courts have been called upon a number of times to interpret the language of rule 2.23(3)(d), which requires the court to "state on the record its reasons for selecting a particular sentence." See State v. Thacker, 862 N.W.2d 402, 407 (Iowa 2015). The reasons for the requirement are (1) to provide the reviewing court a record upon which it can determine whether the trial court has abused its discretion in sentencing, (2) to preserve a defendant's right to challenge the court's exercise of discretion, and (3) to ensure the defendant is aware of the consequences of the criminal act. Id. at 409.

         The reporting of the sentence may be waived, and the sentence, including the reasons for the particular sentence, can be done in writing as a part of the sentencing order. State v. Thompson, 856 N.W.2d 915, 920 (Iowa 2014). In doing so the court can use a form order and check boxes indicating the reasons. Id. at 920-21. If the defendant waives reporting and the court fails to set out reasons for the sentencing, the court is considered to have abused its discretion. Id. at 921. Vague and generalized comments are inadequate under the rules. State v. Cooper, 403 N.W.2d 800, 802 (Iowa Ct. App. 1987). The stated reasons may be terse and succinct so long as the statements are adequate to permit a review. State v. ...


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