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State v. Watson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL FRANCIS WATSON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Lars G. Anderson, Judge.

         A defendant appeals from his conviction for possession of a controlled substance.

          C. Aron Vaughn of Kaplan & Frese, LLP, Marshalltown, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          BLANE, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Michael Francis Watson appeals from his conviction for possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine). He argues trial counsel was ineffective in allowing him to plead guilty without a factual basis that he knowingly possessed methamphetamine. We find the record supports that element of the offense and affirm.

         I. Facts and prior proceedings

         In February 2018, law enforcement officers arrested Watson after a domestic-violence incident. While being booked into the jail, he emptied his pockets, pulling out two glass pipes with a "smokey white residue," a small plastic bag with white residue, and another small plastic bag with round, light-colored pills. The State charged Watson with possession of a controlled substance, (methamphetamine), third or subsequent offense; possession of contraband on the grounds of a correctional facility; and assault causing bodily injury.

         Pursuant to a deal with the State, Watson pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine as a first offense and assault causing bodily injury; the State dismissed the final count. In his written guilty plea, Watson stated he committed the former offense by "knowingly possessing methamphetamine." The court accepted the plea and entered judgment of conviction. On appeal, Watson contends his plea counsel was ineffective in allowing him to plead guilty despite the lack of a sufficient factual basis that the substance was methamphetamine.

         II. Scope and standard of review

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006). Generally, a defendant cannot challenge the adequacy of a plea proceeding without first moving in arrest of judgment, but an exception applies when the defendant alleges counsel permitted him or her to plead guilty without a factual basis. See State v. Finney, 834 N.W.2d 46, 49 (Iowa 2013). A defendant may raise an ineffective-assistance claim on direct appeal if the defendant has reasonable grounds to believe the record is adequate for us to address the claim on direct appeal. Straw, 709 N.W.2d at 133. The record here is adequate.

         "Where a factual basis for a charge does not exist, and trial counsel allows the defendant to plead guilty anyway, counsel has failed to perform an essential duty." State v. Gines, 844 N.W.2d 437, 441 (Iowa 2014) (quoting State v. Schminkey, 597 N.W.2d 785, 788 (Iowa 1999)). "Prejudice is inherent in such a case." Id. Therefore, our "only inquiry is whether the record shows a factual basis for the guilty plea." Id. "The factual basis must be contained in the record, and the record, as a whole, must disclose facts to satisfy all elements of the offense." State v. Ortiz, 789 N.W.2d 761, 767-68 (Iowa 2010). The record does not need to disclose "evidence that the crime was committed beyond a reasonable doubt." Finney, 834 N.W.2d at 62. "A factual basis can be discerned from four sources: (1) inquiry of the defendant, (2) inquiry of the prosecutor, (3) examination of the presentence report, and (4) minutes of evidence." Ortiz, 789 N.W.2d at 768.

         III. ...


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