State v. McCalley, 20-1686

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtCHRISTENSEN, Chief Justice.
Citation972 N.W.2d 672
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Tiffany Sue MCCALLEY, Appellant.
Docket Number20-1686
Decision Date01 April 2022

972 N.W.2d 672

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Tiffany Sue MCCALLEY, Appellant.

No. 20-1686

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted December 15, 2021
Filed April 1, 2022


Martha J. Lucey (argued), State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout (argued), Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Christensen, C.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Waterman, Mansfield, McDonald, and Oxley, JJ., joined. Appel, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part. McDermott, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, which Appel, J., joined.

CHRISTENSEN, Chief Justice.

The defendant seeks review of her sentence and restitution order after the district court imposed a six-day jail sentence and ordered her to pay restitution costs for operating a motor vehicle while her license is barred as a habitual offender. The defendant challenges the district court's discretion to sentence her to jail and the constitutionality of this sentence, claiming the district court improperly considered her struggling financial situation in imposing the jail sentence over her requested sentence of a fine or probation. The defendant also contends the district court erred by ordering restitution for court costs and court-appointed attorney fees under recent legislation codified in Iowa Code chapter 910 instead of applying the prior version of the statute that was in effect at the time of her offense. Alternatively, if the recent amendments to chapter 910 apply to her sentence, the defendant argues the amended statutory scheme violates various state and federal constitutional rights.

For the reasons discussed herein, we affirm the district court's judgment and sentence. The district court properly evaluated all of the facts before concluding the defendant's conduct, criminal history, and failure to rehabilitate warranted jail time instead of a fine or probation. Finally, the defendant waived any challenges to the district court's finding that she had a reasonable ability to pay court costs and court-appointed attorney fees.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On January 13, 2020, Boone police officer Daniel Lynch observed Tiffany McCalley driving a green pickup truck. Officer Lynch was able to identify McCalley as the driver by running a driver's license photo of her using his in-car computer. Dispatch

972 N.W.2d 675

reported McCalley had a barred Iowa license as a habitual offender. After McCalley pulled into a parking lot and entered a restaurant, Officer Lynch arrested her, and the State subsequently charged McCalley with operating a motor vehicle while license is barred as a habitual offender under Iowa Code sections 321.555 and 321.556 in violation of Iowa Code sections 321.560 and 321.561 (2020), an aggravated misdemeanor. McCalley entered a written guilty plea to the charge on October 29, and the district court held a sentencing hearing on December 8.

At the sentencing hearing, counsel for McCalley acknowledged McCalley "does have a little bit of criminal history," citing "an OWI and a couple of other driving charges that date back to 2007" in addition to her license being barred "due to nonpayment of fines and child support over the last couple of years." Nevertheless, counsel explained McCalley "had a lot going on in her personal life" and her two part-time jobs were in "industries [that] have been impacted by COVID so that has added some difficulty to her life at this time." McCalley requested "a suspended sentence with probation or community service or any other requirements the Court would deem appropriate instead of jail time."

The State sought a six-day jail sentence that could be served over four months and could be broken up over the course of weekends and 48-hour increments. In doing so, the State explained,

First of all, I don't believe that a person can end up barred as a habitual offender totally based on nonpayment of fines. She may have started out suspended and then obtained additional convictions, and [her attorney] may be looking at the defendant's criminal history, but when you look at her driving history, I show that she has three driving under suspensions just in 2018, so within the last two years she has three driving under suspensions. Although the state is not unsympathetic to some of the concerns raised by [her attorney], I am also a little skeptical of the Court imposing probation or additional fines for a person who habitually fails to pay them and fails to pay child support. It is just adding to the mountain of debt that she is not yet paying. In a case like this jail time does have a deterrent effect. I point out again to the defendant's driving history. She currently has five suspensions, indefinite suspensions for nonpayment of fines. I don't know what rehabilitative efforts are going to be served by a probationary period, and I also don't know what effect a fine is going to add to a person who can't afford to pay it. It seems the interest of justice or her own rehabilitation might be served by letting her sit in jail and think about the fact that she shouldn't be driving when she doesn't have a license.

Before imposing a sentence, the district court explained its rationale for the sentence, noting,

Ms. McCalley, on review of the file and her written arraignment and other matters, is 48 years of age. She has a high school education. Record today establishes that she has two part-time jobs. Clearly some effect on her economic status due to the COVID pandemic here in Iowa. She is going through a divorce. Recently suffered a fire. Ms. McCalley's driving history is poor. I think that is a charitable description of it.... The Court considers the purposes of disposition to rehabilitate defendant and prevent further offenses from her. The Court finds that probation would not materially or substantially offer or assist Ms. McCalley in rehabilitative efforts.
972 N.W.2d 676
The question here is her nonpayment of fines, child support that led to her suspension. Probation would incur additional economic impact to her, and I think on this sort of offense offer her very little in terms of rehabilitative efforts or protection of the community.

Thus, on December 8, the district court sentenced McCalley to a six-day jail sentence with credit for time served that she could serve in 48-hour minimum increments and would be given 120 days to serve. It suspended the minimum fine of $625 and fifteen percent surcharge.

At the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the district court asked whether "Ms. McCalley [would] like to address reasonable ability to pay category B costs today or reserve that for a later date?" McCalley opted to reserve that discussion for a later date, leading the district court to declare, "Ms. McCalley does have the reasonable ability to pay Category B costs as she does hold two part-time jobs for the determination that may be made when Ms. McCalley files a written application and financial affidavit for further determination on her reasonable ability to pay." The district court determined the costs of McCalley's category "B" restitution amounted to $680.54. McCalley never challenged this conclusion or requested a determination of her reasonable ability to pay before filing her notice of appeal concerning her sentence, which we retained. The parties agree McCalley established "good cause," or "[a] legally sufficient reason," for the appeal under Iowa Code section 814.6(1)(a )(3). State v. Damme , 944 N.W.2d 98, 104 (Iowa 2020) (alteration in original).

II. Standard of Review.

We review sentences imposed in a criminal case for correction of errors at law. Id. at 103. "We afford sentencing judges a significant amount of latitude because of the ‘discretionary nature of judging and the source of the respect afforded by the appellate process.’ " State v. Fetner , 959 N.W.2d 129, 133 (Iowa 2021) (quoting State v. Boldon , 954 N.W.2d 62, 73 (Iowa 2021) ). Sentencing decisions that fall within the statutory limits are "cloaked with a strong presumption in [their] favor." Id. at 134 (quoting Boldon , 954 N.W.2d at 73 ).

Absent "an abuse of discretion or some defect in the sentencing procedure," we will not reverse a sentence. Damme , 944 N.W.2d at 103 (quoting State v. Formaro , 638 N.W.2d 720, 724 (Iowa 2002) ). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the court exercises its discretion on grounds or for reasons that are clearly untenable or unreasonable. We may find grounds untenable when based on an erroneous application of the law." State v. Thompson , 951 N.W.2d 1, 4 (Iowa 2020) (quoting State v. Covel , 925 N.W.2d 183, 187 (Iowa 2019) ). We also review restitution orders for correction of errors at law. Id. We review constitutional challenges de novo. State v. Treptow , 960 N.W.2d 98, 107 (Iowa 2021).

III. Analysis.

McCalley raises numerous challenges on appeal. She argues the district court abused its discretion and violated her due process and equal protection rights when it imposed a jail sentence. Next, McCalley maintains the district court should have applied the statutory scheme governing restitution in effect at the time of her offense instead of applying the amended statutory...

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