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State v. Ruth

Supreme Court of Iowa

March 29, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
TYSON J. RUTH, Appellant.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Greene County, Adria A.D. Kester, District Associate Judge.

         Defendant convicted of theft in the second degree appeals from the provision of a sentencing order relating to the taxation of court courts. 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 Brenda J. Gohr, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, and Nicola Martino, County Attorney, for appellee.

          CADY, Chief Justice.

         In this appeal from a judgment and sentence on conviction of the crime of theft in the second degree, the defendant claims the district court imposed an illegal sentence by requiring him to pay the total court costs in the case. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals, affirm the district court in part, reverse in part, and remand the case for resentencing on the taxation of court costs.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The State charged Tyson Ruth by an eight-count trial information with multiple crimes of burglary, theft, possession of illegal drugs, and a single count of ongoing criminal conduct. The crimes involved multiple victims. A portion of the evidence supporting the charges was a product of a search of Ruth's home by police pursuant to a warrant.

         Counsel was appointed to represent Ruth in the case, and he filed a motion to suppress the evidence. On the day of the hearing on the motion, the State and Ruth reached a plea agreement. Under the agreement, Ruth would plead guilty to one count of theft in the second degree, and the remaining counts of the trial information would be dismissed. The count of conviction involved a theft from a victim named Michael Strautman. The prosecutor and Ruth agreed victim restitution would be limited to the count of conviction. The prosecutor also informed the court that the State would be asking that Ruth pay court costs, but no agreement between the parties was identified. The plea agreement was subsequently memorialized during the plea hearing. In explaining the sentence and punishment Ruth faced by pleading guilty, the district court informed him that he "would be required to pay court costs of '[the] action, including costs of your court-appointed attorney.' "

         At the sentencing hearing, the district court imposed a sentence for the crime of theft in the second degree. In doing so, it ordered that Ruth pay the "court costs of [the] action." The judgment and sentence also dismissed the remaining counts in the case, adding that the "costs are taxed to the defendant." A docket report subsequently generated by the clerk of court in the case identified court costs of $482.20. These costs included a $100 filing fee for the trial information; eight sheriff fees ranging from $21.50 to $43.76 for serving subpoenas to various individuals, including Michael Strautman; a $40 court reporter fee of a plea hearing; a $40 court reporter fee for the sentencing; and a sheriff's fee of $69.98 to transport Ruth to serve his sentence of incarceration. The district court determined Ruth was not able to pay the court-appointed attorney fees.

         Ruth appealed from the judgment and sentence. He claimed the district court should have apportioned the court costs to limit his responsibility to pay only those costs associated with the single count that resulted in the conviction. He claimed no agreement existed for him to pay the costs associated with the dismissed counts. Ruth also raised claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel.

         We transferred the case to the court of appeals. It found Ruth failed to show that the total bill of costs he was ordered to pay included costs associated with the dismissed counts. The court of appeals further found the claims of ineffective assistance of counsel should be resolved by postconviction relief. Ruth sought, and we granted, further review.

         II. ...


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