State v. Straw, No. 04-0952.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtStreit
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Cary Lee STRAW, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 04-0952.
Decision Date03 February 2006
709 N.W.2d 128
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Cary Lee STRAW, Appellant.
No. 04-0952.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
February 3, 2006.

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Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender, and Greta A. Truman, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kristin Guddall, Assistant Attorney General, and W. Wayne Saur, County Attorney, for appellee.

STREIT, Justice.


Cary Lee Straw appeals from the judgments and sentences entered by the district court following his guilty pleas to possession of a controlled substance, third offense, and driving while barred. Straw claims the district court erred by not substantially complying with the requirements of Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.8(2)(b). He also claims his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment after the district court did not inform him of the maximum punishment he could face by pleading guilty. The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the district court. Upon our review, we affirm the decision on different grounds and preserve the issue for postconviction relief proceedings.

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I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

On a Tuesday afternoon in the fall of November 2003, Cary Lee Straw rolled through the town of Oelwein with a license plate that did not match his vehicle. A police officer stopped Straw to investigate the license plate and discovered Straw was driving while barred. The officer arrested him, searched him, and found a plastic bag containing marijuana and rolling papers in his pocket. The officer also noticed an open bottle of Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and an open bottle of vodka in the back seat. Straw was charged with possession of a controlled substance (third offense), driving while barred, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was also cited for an open container violation and improper use of a vehicle registration.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Straw pled guilty to possession of a controlled substance, third offense, and driving while barred. See Iowa Code §§ 124.401(5) (2003) (possession of a controlled substance, third offense, class "D" felony), 321.561 (driving while barred, aggravated misdemeanor). In exchange for his plea, the State dismissed the paraphernalia charge, as well as the improper use of registration and open container citations. The agreement also specified Straw would make his own recommendation for sentencing while the State would recommend concurrent sentences for both charges.1

Before accepting the plea, the court spoke with Straw and discussed the elements of the charged offenses, the factual basis for those charges, the right to go to trial, rights pursuant to trial, and the fact that if he pled guilty he would be forfeiting those rights. The court did not discuss the maximum punishment he would face by pleading guilty. The court accepted Straw's plea and found it "knowingly and voluntarily made" with a basis in fact. Straw never filed a motion in arrest of judgment to challenge the validity of his plea.

Weeks later, the sentencing court imposed sentences of up to five years for the possession of marijuana charge and up to two years for the driving-while-barred charge. The court ordered the sentences consecutive to each other and consecutive to a separate, unrelated conviction.

Straw appealed, contending the district court erred by not properly informing him of the potential punishments he faced for pleading guilty to these charges, and erred by not explaining these sentences could be ordered to run consecutively. Straw claimed this rendered his plea unknowing and involuntary. Straw asserted his claim should be considered directly on appeal because the district court did not adequately advise him of his right to file a motion in arrest of judgment. In the alternative, Straw claimed his counsel was ineffective for failing to ensure he was fully informed at the plea proceeding and for failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment.

We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals found the district court substantially complied with its duty to inform Straw of his right to file a motion in arrest of judgment and determined Straw did not preserve the error for direct appeal because he did not file such a motion. It then analyzed whether Straw's counsel was ineffective. It determined Straw's counsel violated an essential duty by not filing a motion in arrest of judgment,

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but ultimately affirmed the district court because it found Straw was not prejudiced by the error because he had received a favorable plea and the evidence against him was overwhelming. We granted further review.

II. Error Preservation

The State contends Straw may not directly challenge his guilty plea on appeal because he did not file a motion in arrest of judgment contesting the legality of his plea. See Iowa R.Crim. P. 2.24(3) ("A defendant's failure to challenge the adequacy of a guilty plea proceeding by motion in arrest of judgment shall preclude the defendant's right to assert such challenge on appeal."); see State v. Loye, 670 N.W.2d 141, 149 (Iowa 2003).2 Straw contends this requirement does not apply because the trial court did not adequately advise him that failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment would preclude him from later raising issues regarding his guilty plea on appeal. See Iowa R.Crim. P. 2.8(2)(d) ("The court shall inform the defendant that any challenges to a plea of guilty based on alleged defects in the plea proceedings must be raised in a motion in arrest of judgment and that failure to so raise such challenges shall preclude the right to assert them on appeal."); Loye, 670 N.W.2d at 149 (stating court's failure to comply with rule 2.8(2)(d) operates to reinstate the defendant's right to appeal the legality of his plea).

Following Straw's guilty plea, the district court told Straw:

Now, if you have — wish to appeal or challenge any of the proceedings that have taken place in the courtroom today, you have to file a paper that we call a Motion in Arrest of Judgment. That is simply a paper that basically says I didn't follow all of the correct procedures in taking your guilty plea and it gives me a chance to go back and correct that. Mr. Harden can explain that to you. But the important thing is that that paper must be filed not less than five days before sentencing. So, when we come back for sentencing, if no such motion has been filed, then we will proceed to sentencing, and we will assume that all the procedures we followed up to this point are correct. Do you understand that, sir?

Straw responded, "Yes, Your Honor."

We employ a substantial compliance standard in determining whether a trial court has discharged its duty under rule 2.8(2)(d). Id. at 150. The court must ensure the defendant understands the necessity of filing a motion to challenge a guilty plea and the consequences of failing to do so. Id.

The court's comments were sufficient to discharge its duty under rule 2.8(2)(d). Instead of quoting rule 2.8(2)(d) verbatim, the court performed its duty commendably by using plain English to explain the motion in arrest of judgment. The court's statement plainly indicated that if Straw wanted to appeal or challenge the guilty plea, he had to file a motion in arrest of judgment. It also indicated this motion had to be filed not less than five days before sentencing. In whole, it conveyed the pertinent information and substantially complied with the requirements of rule 2.8(2)(d). Therefore, Straw's failure to move in arrest of judgment bars a direct appeal of his conviction.

Page 133

Iowa R.Crim. P. 2.24(3)(a); State v. Brooks, 555 N.W.2d 446, 448 (Iowa 1996). However, this failure does not bar a challenge to a guilty plea if the failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment resulted from ineffective assistance of counsel. Brooks, 555 N.W.2d at 448.

III. Merits and Scope of Review

An ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim in a criminal case "need not be raised on direct appeal from the criminal proceedings in order to preserve the claim for postconviction relief purposes." Iowa Code § 814.7(1) (2005). The defendant may raise the ineffective assistance claim on direct appeal if he or she has reasonable grounds to believe the record is adequate to address the claim on direct appeal. Id. § 814.7(2). If an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim is raised on direct appeal from the criminal proceedings, we may decide the record is adequate to decide the claim or may choose to preserve the claim for postconviction proceedings. Id. § 814.7(3). Only in rare cases will the trial record alone be sufficient to resolve the claim on direct appeal. State v. Atley, 564 N.W.2d 817, 833 (Iowa 1997) (stating claims of ineffective assistance of counsel raised on direct appeal are ordinarily reserved for postconviction proceedings to allow full development of the facts surrounding counsel's conduct); State v. Coil, 264 N.W.2d 293, 296 (Iowa 1978). We review ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo. State v. Button, 622 N.W.2d 480, 483 (Iowa 2001).

A. Ineffective Assistance

To establish his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Straw must demonstrate (1) his trial counsel failed to perform an essential duty, and (2) this failure resulted in prejudice. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 2065, 80 L.Ed.2d 674, 693 (1984); State v. Dalton, 674 N.W.2d 111, 119 (Iowa 2004). Straw must prove both elements by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Gant, 597 N.W.2d 501, 504 (Iowa 1999). As discussed in the following analysis, the record does not adequately present the issues in this case and the case is more properly addressed in a postconviction relief hearing. See State v. Ueding, 400 N.W.2d 550, 553 (Iowa 1987).

1. Failure to Perform an Essential Duty

Under the first prong of this test, counsel's performance is...

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516 practice notes
  • Schmidt v. State, No. 15-1408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 23, 2018
    ...the State is entitled to expect finality in the conviction." State v. Mann , 602 N.W.2d 785, 789 (Iowa 1999) ; see also State v. Straw , 709 N.W.2d 128, 138 (Iowa 2006).While I expect today's decision to lead to a new wave of applications for postconviction relief, and more work for appoint......
  • Smith v. McKinney, No. C 11-3010-MWB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 31, 2015
    ...informed of the section 903B.1 sentence." See id. (citing State v. Hallock, 765 N.W.2d 598, 606 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009); State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 137 (Iowa 2008)). 16. The Respondent does recognizes that "[t]he Iowa [appellate] court ruled that no part of the plea needed to be vacated o......
  • State v. Short, No. 12–1150.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...novo. State v. Dewitt, 811 N.W.2d 460, 467 (Iowa 2012). The same is true of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006).III. Discussion.A. Positions of the Parties. 1. Short. Short challenges the denial of the motion to suppress on appeal. Sh......
  • State v. Null, No. 11–1080.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 16, 2013
    ...State v. Schminkey, 597 N.W.2d 785, 788 (Iowa 1999). Null must establish both prongs by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006).A. Adequacy of the Plea Colloquy. 1. Positions of the Parties. Null asserts his counsel was ineffective because his counse......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
515 cases
  • Schmidt v. State, No. 15-1408
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 23, 2018
    ...the State is entitled to expect finality in the conviction." State v. Mann , 602 N.W.2d 785, 789 (Iowa 1999) ; see also State v. Straw , 709 N.W.2d 128, 138 (Iowa 2006).While I expect today's decision to lead to a new wave of applications for postconviction relief, and more work for appoint......
  • Smith v. McKinney, No. C 11-3010-MWB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • March 31, 2015
    ...informed of the section 903B.1 sentence." See id. (citing State v. Hallock, 765 N.W.2d 598, 606 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009); State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 137 (Iowa 2008)). 16. The Respondent does recognizes that "[t]he Iowa [appellate] court ruled that no part of the plea needed to be vacated o......
  • State v. Short, No. 12–1150.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...novo. State v. Dewitt, 811 N.W.2d 460, 467 (Iowa 2012). The same is true of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006).III. Discussion.A. Positions of the Parties. 1. Short. Short challenges the denial of the motion to suppress on appeal. Sh......
  • State v. Null, No. 11–1080.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 16, 2013
    ...State v. Schminkey, 597 N.W.2d 785, 788 (Iowa 1999). Null must establish both prongs by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006).A. Adequacy of the Plea Colloquy. 1. Positions of the Parties. Null asserts his counsel was ineffective because his counse......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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