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Barker v. Iowa Department of Public Safety

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 25, 2019

ROSS BARKER, Appellant,
v.
IOWA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, Appellee.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark D. Cleve, Judge.

         The defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision and the judicial review decision of the district court upholding the Iowa Department of Public Safety's determination that defendant must register for life on the sex offender registry.

          Philip B. Mears of Mears Law Office, Iowa City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and John R. Lundquist, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          CHRISTENSEN, JUSTICE.

         This appeal presents a unique set of circumstances under which the defendant, Ross Barker, maintains a 2015 court of appeals opinion concluding the district court properly sentenced him to ten years on the sex offender registry precludes the Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) from requiring him to now register as a sex offender for life. Barker pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor, in 2008. The district court informed him at his sentencing hearing that he was only required to register as a sex offender for ten years when he was actually subject to lifetime registration. Barker sought postconviction relief after the county sheriff informed him he was required to register as a sex offender for life. The district court dismissed Barker's application as untimely. However, the court of appeals reached the merits of Barker's claim on appeal in 2015 and concluded he could not show his postconviction-relief counsel was ineffective for failing to argue his plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was misinformed about the length of his required registration. Specifically, the court of appeals determined Barker was not misinformed about the length of his required registration since he was only required to register as a sex offender for ten years.

         Barker subsequently sought the DPS's determination of his sex offender registration requirements. The DPS found Barker was subject to lifetime registration and declined to accept the 2015 court of appeals' decision that he was only required to register for ten years. Barker filed a petition for judicial review of the DPS's decision, and the district court and court of appeals both affirmed the DPS's determination based on their conclusion that they lacked the authority to determine the length of his sex offender registration requirements. On further review, Barker invokes the doctrine of issue preclusion and argues the DPS must accept the 2015 court of appeals decision regarding the length of his sex offender registration. We agree based on the distinct facts of his case. For the reasons set forth below, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the judgment of the district court, and remand the case to the DPS for further consideration in conformity with our opinion.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On March 14, 2008, Ross Barker pled guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.11 (2007). While there is no record of his guilty plea beyond the plea forms, the district court informed Barker at his sentencing hearing that he would "be required to be on the Sex Offender Registry for a period of ten years." On May 12, 2008, the district court entered a corrected order to include the ten-year special sentence required pursuant to Iowa Code section 903B.2.

         When Barker was released from prison on July 9, 2013, the county sheriff informed him that he was required to register as a sex offender for life rather than ten years. Barker subsequently filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence that the district court treated as an untimely application for postconviction relief and dismissed. Barker appealed this dismissal, arguing, among other claims, that his postconviction counsel was ineffective in failing to argue his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary since the district court affirmatively misled him regarding the duration of the sex offender registry requirement.

         In 2015, the court of appeals affirmed the postconviction court's judgment on the merits of the case rather than the timeliness of the application, explaining,

Because of the plea Barker entered under section 709.11, an aggravated misdemeanor, the district court properly imposed the special sentence pursuant to section 903B.2. In addition, under section 692A.106');">692A.106, Barker was required to be placed on the Sex Offender Registry for a period of ten years, not a lifetime as Barker mistakenly asserted in his PCR application.

Barker v. State, No. 14-1178, 2015 WL 5287142, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 10, 2015). We denied Barker's further review application.[1]Thereafter, Barker filed an application for determination of his registration requirements with the DPS in which he sought the DPS's acceptance of the court of appeals' decision that he was only required to register as a sex offender for ten years. The DPS denied Barker's application, finding he was subject to mandatory lifetime ...


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