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State v. McMurry

Supreme Court of Iowa

March 29, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
QUINTEN BRICE McMURRY, Appellant.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Kevin A. Parker, District Associate Judge.

         Defendant appeals from the judgment and sentence for the crime of making a false report and from revocation of probation. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT AND SENTENCE AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender (until withdrawal), and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, Doug Eichholz, County Attorney, and Bobbier A. Cranston, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          CADY, Chief Justice.

         In this appeal, we primarily consider whether the district court properly assessed court costs and court-appointed attorney fees in the prosecution of a multicount trial information when one of the counts resulted in a conviction based on a plea of guilty and the other counts were dismissed. On our review, we explain and modify our rule relating to the equitable apportionment of fees and court costs in criminal cases and conclude the district court properly assessed all of the court costs in the case against the defendant. We also hold that the amount of court-appointed attorney fees assessed against the defendant must be determined before the sentencing court determines the reasonable amount the defendant is able to pay. Accordingly, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, affirm the judgment and sentence of the district court in part, reverse in part, and remand for resentencing on restitution for court-appointed attorney fees.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Quinten McMurry was charged by a trial information filed on June 24, 2016, with the crimes of false report of an incendiary explosive device in violation of Iowa Code section 712.7 (2016), threats to place an incendiary or explosive device in violation of section 712.8, and harassment in violation of section 708.7(1) and (2). The charges stemmed from an incident on June 14, 2016, while McMurry was serving a term of probation imposed by a deferred judgment for the crimes of child endangerment and interference with official acts. On August 24, 2016, the State dismissed the harassment charge, and the case subsequently proceeded to trial on the false report and threats crimes.

         On the day of trial, McMurry reached a plea agreement with the State. The agreement required McMurry to enter into an Alford plea of guilty to the false report charge, and the State would dismiss the threats charge. The plea agreement did not cover payment of court costs. The district court subsequently accepted the guilty plea. McMurry also stipulated to the violation of his probation.

         McMurry appeared in court on October 3, 2016, for sentencing on the crime of making a false report and for a hearing on the revocation of probation. The district court sentenced him to a five-year indeterminate term of incarceration for the crime of false report and imposed a two-year indeterminate term of incarceration for the crimes of child endangerment and interference after revoking the deferred judgment. It ordered the two sentences to run consecutively. The district court then suspended the terms of incarceration and placed him on probation. One term of probation required McMurry to reside at the Fort Des Moines Residential Facility. The court also ordered McMurry to pay restitution, including court costs and court-appointed attorney fees. The provision in the sentencing order relating to restitution provided for the payment of "court costs in the amount" to be determined "(clerk to assess)." The provision relating to attorney fees included a finding by the sentencing court that McMurry had "the reasonable ability to pay" the fees and costs, but the amount of fees was left open for a later determination.

         Ten days following sentencing, the clerk of court issued a docket report. The report assessed court costs totaling $220, consisting of the trial information filing and docketing fee of $100 and three separate court reporter fees of $40 for the arraignment and bond review hearing, guilty plea hearing, and sentencing hearing.

         McMurry appealed from the judgment and sentence, and raised four claims of error. First, he claimed his trial counsel was ineffective for allowing him to enter a plea of guilty to child endangerment without a factual basis. Second, he claimed the district court erred in ordering him to complete the Fort Des Moines Residential Facility program as a term of probation. Third, he claimed the district court imposed an illegal sentence by ordering him to pay costs associated with counts of the trial information that were dismissed by the State. Finally, he claimed the district court erred in assessing court-appointed attorney fees before the amount of the fees was known.

         We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment and sentence of the district court. It held that a factual basis supported the plea of guilty to child endangerment and that the district court did not abuse its discretion when imposing the terms of probation. It also held that the court costs assessed to McMurry were attributed to the count of conviction and declined to address the attorney-fee claim without a final determination of the total fees. McMurry sought, and we granted, further review.

         On further review, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, but consider only two of the issues raised. We consider whether the district court imposed an illegal sentence by failing to assess court costs proportionately between the count that resulted in the conviction and the two counts dismissed. We also consider whether the district court erred in assessing attorney fees before the amount had been determined. We otherwise agree with the court of appeals decision and summarily hold that the district court did not err in finding a factual basis to support McMurry's plea of guilty to the crime of child endangerment and did not abuse its discretion in ordering placement at the Fort Des Moines Residential Facility as a term of probation.

         As to the issues considered on further review, we conclude the district court did not err in ordering McMurry to pay court costs, but erred in finding he had the ability to pay attorney fees before the amount had been determined. Therefore, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the sentence ...


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