State v. Tucker, No. 19-2082

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD, Justice.
Citation959 N.W.2d 140
Decision Date07 May 2021
Docket NumberNo. 19-2082
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Tyjaun Levell TUCKER, Appellant.

959 N.W.2d 140

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Tyjaun Levell TUCKER, Appellant.

No. 19-2082

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted October 14, 2020
Filed May 7, 2021


Andy Dunn (argued) of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller (argued), Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Amanda L. Johnson, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

McDonald, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Waterman, Mansfield, and Oxley, JJ., joined, and in which Christensen, C.J., and McDermott, J., joined as to divisions I–III, V, and VI. McDermott, J., filed a special concurrence, in which Christensen, C.J., joined. Appel, J., filed a special concurrence.

McDONALD, Justice.

959 N.W.2d 144

Tyjaun Tucker pleaded guilty to theft in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 714.1 and 714.2(2) (2019). In this direct appeal, Tucker contends his plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made and his counsel was ineffective for nonetheless allowing Tucker to plead guilty. In addition to those issues, Tucker challenges the constitutionality of new legislation that limits the ability of a defendant to appeal as a matter of right from a conviction following a guilty plea and that directs all claims of ineffective assistance of counsel be presented and resolved in the first instance in postconviction-relief proceedings rather than on direct appeal. See 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a ), .7 (2020)). Tucker contends the new legislation violates his right to equal protection of the laws and the separation-of-powers doctrine.

I.

The minutes of testimony show Tucker was employed as a technician of a cable communications company. In that capacity, Tucker entered the residences of the company's customers to replace modems or receivers. On one occasion, Tucker stole $2750 in cash from a customer. The customer reported the theft to the police, and the police contacted Tucker to obtain his side of the story. Tucker denied taking the money. He was eventually arrested and charged with theft in the second degree.

The parties reached a plea agreement. Tucker agreed to plead guilty to theft in the second degree, as charged, with the sentence to be served consecutive to a sentence in another matter. The parties agreed the sentences would be suspended due to Tucker's willingness to take accountability for his criminal conduct and agreed Tucker would be placed on probation for three years. Tucker's counsel confirmed the substance of the plea agreement on the record.

The district court's plea colloquy was thorough. The district court informed the defendant of his trial rights and obtained Tucker's waiver of the same. The district court informed Tucker he had no right to appeal absent a showing of good cause:

THE COURT: Mr. Tucker, by pleading guilty today, your appellate rights after today will be that you can ask the Court for permission to file an appeal. You have to establish that good cause exists before the Court could grant you that right. So knowing what your appellate rights would be after today, do you still wish to plead guilty?

THE DEFENDANT: I do.

THE COURT: I didn't hear you.

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

THE COURT: Okay. And are you pleading guilty today voluntarily and of your own free will?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes.

The district court accepted the defendant's guilty plea.

The defendant wished to proceed to immediate sentencing. The district court informed Tucker he had the right to delay sentencing, and Tucker stated he understood the right and waived the same. The district court informed Tucker he had the right to have a presentence investigation report prepared prior to sentencing, and Tucker stated he understood the right and waived the same. The district court also advised Tucker he had the right to file a motion in arrest of judgment and if Tucker proceeded to immediate sentencing, he would waive that right and "never be able to challenge [his] plea." Tucker stated he understood the right and intended to waive the same. The district court imposed the

959 N.W.2d 145

bargained-for sentence. Judgment was entered on November 20, 2019.

II.

In 2019, the general assembly passed and the governor signed an omnibus crime bill effective July 1, 2019. See 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140. The new legislation applies to this appeal because judgment and sentence was entered after the effective date of the bill. See State v. Draine , 936 N.W.2d 205, 206 (Iowa 2019) ; State v. Macke , 933 N.W.2d 226, 231 (Iowa 2019). There are two provisions of that legislation at issue in this appeal.

First, the new legislation limits a defendant's ability to appeal as a matter of right from a conviction following a guilty plea. Iowa Code section 814.6(1)(a ) now provides:

1. Right of appeal is granted the defendant from:

a. A final judgment of sentence, except in the following cases:

(1) A simple misdemeanor conviction.

(2) An ordinance violation.

(3) A conviction where the defendant has pled guilty. This subparagraph does not apply to a guilty plea for a class "A" felony or in a case where the defendant establishes good cause.

Prior to the change in law, all defendants had an appeal as a matter of right (except in cases of simple misdemeanor and ordinance violations) without regard to whether the conviction was obtained after a trial or pursuant to a guilty plea. See Iowa Code § 814.6(1)(a ) (2018).

Second, the new legislation requires all claims of ineffective assistance of counsel be decided in the first instance in postconviction-relief proceedings rather than on direct appeal. The new statute provides:

An ineffective assistance of counsel claim in a criminal case shall be determined by filing an application for postconviction relief pursuant to chapter 822. The claim need not be raised on direct appeal from the criminal proceedings in order to preserve the claim for postconviction relief purposes, and the claim shall not be decided on direct appeal from the criminal proceedings.

Iowa Code § 814.7 (2019). Prior to the change in law, a defendant could raise a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and this court had the authority to either decide the claim or preserve it for further development in postconviction-relief proceedings. See Iowa Code § 814.7(2), (3) (2018).

III.

Tucker contends the new law violates his federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection of the laws. Specifically, Tucker contends section 814.6(1)(a )(3) makes an unconstitutional distinction between those convicted after trial and those convicted after a guilty plea. Our review is de novo. See State v. Mitchell , 757 N.W.2d 431, 434 (Iowa 2008) (applying de novo review to equal protection claims).

The United States and Iowa Constitutions guarantee the equal protection of the law to all persons. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides, "No State shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. The Iowa Constitution provides, "All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation; the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens." Iowa Const. art. I, § 6. We have interpreted this provision of the Iowa Constitution to mean "similarly situated persons

959 N.W.2d 146

[should] be treated alike under the law." In re Det. of Williams , 628 N.W.2d 447, 452 (Iowa 2001) (en banc). Generally, "[w]e apply the same analysis in considering the state equal protection claim as we do in considering the federal equal protection claim." In re Morrow , 616 N.W.2d 544, 547 (Iowa 2000) (en banc) (quoting State v. Ceaser , 585 N.W.2d 192, 196 (Iowa 1998), overruled on other grounds by State v. Bruegger , 773 N.W.2d 862 (Iowa 2009) ). At its core, the federal and state "equal protection guarantee requires that laws treat all those who are similarly situated with respect to the purposes of the law alike." Varnum v. Brien , 763 N.W.2d 862, 883 (Iowa 2009) (emphasis omitted).

The first step in our equal protection analysis is to determine whether the challenged law makes a distinction between similarly situated individuals with respect to the purposes of the law. See id. at 882. This is a threshold test. See id. If the defendant "cannot show as a preliminary matter that [he is] similarly situated, [we] do not further consider whether ... different treatment under a statute is permitted." Id.

Tucker has failed to establish he is similarly situated to a relevant comparator with respect to the purposes of the law. He argues section 814.6(1)(a )(3) makes an arbitrary distinction between the appellate rights afforded those convicted after trial and those convicted pursuant to a guilty plea. However, those convicted after trial and those convicted pursuant to a guilty plea are not similarly situated for the purposes of appellate review. See Reed v. Hannigan , 295 F.3d 1061, 1064 (10th Cir. 2002) ("Moreover, the fact that a petitioner who has pled...

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46 practice notes
  • Doss v. State, No. 19-1285
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 25, 2021
    ...on other grounds, 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a), .7 (2020)), as recognized in State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 153-54 (Iowa 2021). "Counsel breaches an essential duty when counsel makes such serious errors that counsel is not functioning as the......
  • State v. Treptow, No. 19-1276
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 28, 2021
    ...provisions of the omnibus crime bill in recent decisions. See generally Hrbek v. State , 958 N.W.2d 779 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Tucker , 959 N.W.2d 140 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Boldon , 954 N.W.2d 62 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Draine , 936 N.W.2d 20......
  • Doss v. State, No. 19-1285
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 25, 2021
    ...on other grounds, 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a), .7 (2020)), as recognized in State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 153-54 (Iowa 2021). "Counsel breaches an essential duty when counsel makes such serious errors that counsel is not functioning as the......
  • Sothman v. State, 19-1837
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 10, 2021
    ...on other grounds, 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a), .7 (2020)), as recognized in State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 153-54 (Iowa 2021)). "Counsel breaches an essential duty when counsel makes such serious errors that counsel is not functioning as th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • Doss v. State, No. 19-1285
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 25, 2021
    ...on other grounds, 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a), .7 (2020)), as recognized in State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 153-54 (Iowa 2021). "Counsel breaches an essential duty when counsel makes such serious errors that counsel is not functioning as the advo......
  • State v. Treptow, No. 19-1276
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 28, 2021
    ...provisions of the omnibus crime bill in recent decisions. See generally Hrbek v. State , 958 N.W.2d 779 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Tucker , 959 N.W.2d 140 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Thompson , 954 N.W.2d 402 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Boldon , 954 N.W.2d 62 (Iowa 2021) ; State v. Draine , 936 N.W.2d 20......
  • State v. Crawford, 19-1506
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 18, 2022
    ...change the constitutional character of this court to something other than "a court for the correction of errors at law." State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 150 (Iowa 2021) (quoting Wine v. Jones, 168 N.W. 318, 321 (Iowa 1918)). A verdict not sustained by the evidence is an error at law. O'Don......
  • Doss v. State, No. 19-1285
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 25, 2021
    ...on other grounds, 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, §§ 28, 31 (codified at Iowa Code §§ 814.6(1)(a), .7 (2020)), as recognized in State v. Tucker, 959 N.W.2d 140, 153-54 (Iowa 2021). "Counsel breaches an essential duty when counsel makes such serious errors that counsel is not functioning as the advo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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