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Noll v. Iowa District Court for Muscatine County

Supreme Court of Iowa

October 19, 2018

RICHARD EUGENE NOLL, Plaintiff,
v.
IOWA DISTRICT COURT FOR MUSCATINE COUNTY, Defendant.

          Petition for writ of certiorari from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Gary P. Strausser, District Associate Judge.

         A plaintiff files a petition for writ of certiorari claiming his sentence is illegal. WRIT SUSTAINED.

          Thomas Hurd of Glazebrook & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for plaintiff.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, and Alan Ostergren, County Attorney, for defendant.

          WIGGINS, JUSTICE

         The district court sentenced the certiorari plaintiff as a habitual offender for operating while intoxicated (OWI), third offense. The plaintiff filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence, claiming his sentence was illegal because the statutory scheme did not allow him to be sentenced as a habitual offender. The district court denied the plaintiff's motion. The plaintiff filed a notice of appeal and a brief. Under Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.108, we convert his appeal to a petition for writ of certiorari and grant the petition.

         On the merits, we find Iowa Code section 321J.2(5) (2011)[1]prescribes the maximum and minimum sentence for OWI, third and subsequent offenses. Thus, the habitual offender provisions in sections 902.8 and 902.9 do not apply to OWI, third and subsequent offenses. Therefore, we sustain the writ of certiorari, vacate Noll's sentence, and remand for resentencing.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On April 14, 2011, the state charged Richard Eugene Noll with OWI, third offense, in violation of Iowa Code section 321J.2(1)(a), and as a habitual offender under section 902.8. In a bifurcated trial, the jury found Noll guilty of OWI. Noll then stipulated that he had two prior OWI convictions and two prior felony OWI, third offense, convictions.

         On January 6, 2012, the court adjudged Noll guilty of OWI, third offense, and as a habitual offender, in violation of sections 321J.2(1)(a) and 902.8, respectively. The court sentenced Noll to an indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed fifteen years with a three-year mandatory minimum term of confinement. Noll was also ordered to pay a $5000 fine, a 35% surcharge, court costs, attorney fees, and a $10 DARE surcharge.

         On January 23, 2017, Noll filed a "Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence." He argued he received an illegal sentence "as Iowa law no longer authorizes the State to impose habitual offender enhancements on an OWI 3rd." The state filed a resistance. The district court denied Noll's motion. Noll appealed by filing a notice of appeal.

         II. Jurisdiction.

         Noll filed a notice of appeal after the district court found his sentence was not an illegal sentence. The way to challenge the denial of a motion to correct an illegal sentence is by writ of certiorari. State v. Propps, 897 N.W.2d 91, 97 (Iowa 2017) (citing Iowa R. App. P. 6.107). When a party starts an appeal by filing a notice of appeal but another form of appellate review is proper, our rules allow us to proceed with the appeal as though the appellant requested the proper form of appeal. Iowa R. App. P. 6.108. Under this rule, we choose to exercise our discretion and treat the notice of appeal and accompanying brief as a petition for writ of certiorari, grant the writ, and proceed to the merits of the petition for writ of certiorari.

         III. Issue.

         Whether the court must vacate Noll's sentence because Iowa Code section 321J.2 prescribes a specific, fixed punishment for OWI, third offense and sentencing him as a habitual offender under Iowa Code sections 902.8 and 902.9 was illegal.

         IV. Standard of Review.

         Noll claims his sentence is illegal because the sentencing court incorrectly interpreted the statutes under which it sentenced him. Because he does not allege a constitutional violation, we review his illegal-sentence challenge for correction of errors at law. State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 382 (Iowa 2014). Likewise, "[o]ur standard of review for questions of statutory interpretation is for correction of errors at law." Vance v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 907 N.W.2d 473, 476 (Iowa 2018). "We also review an original certiorari action for the correction of errors at law. 'Illegality exists when the court's findings lack substantial evidentiary support, or ...


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