Fleeing criminal suspect who rams cop cars must pay for the damage, Iowa Supreme Court rules

By: Rox Laird on December 3rd, 2018

A criminal suspect who runs into police cars while fleeing law-enforcement officers can be ordered to pay restitution for damage to the government’s vehicles, the Iowa Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling handed down Nov. 30.

Darryl B. Shears Jr. was fleeing several Davenport police officers who tried and failed to stop him using spike strips before using squad cars to block his vehicle. Shears subsequently pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and eluding an officer, and the city filed a restitution claim for $7,093 for the police vehicles damaged by Shears.

Shears argued that the damage to the vehicles was caused not by his criminal conduct but by police officers who placed their cars in his path. However, the Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Brent Appel, held that there was a sufficient link between Shears’s actions leading police on a high-speed chase and the resulting damage to the two squad cars.

Felony-murder rule can be applied to juveniles, Iowa Supreme Court rules

By: Rox Laird on June 29th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the felony-murder rule may be applied to juvenile offenders in a decision upholding the sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for a defendant who was 16 at the time of the crime.

Keyon Harrison was found guilty by a Polk County jury of first-degree murder for his role in the robbery and murder of a marijuana dealer. Prosecutors conceded at trial that the evidence suggested it was Harrison’s 17-year-old companion, not Harrison, who fatally shot the victim. But Harrison was found guilty of aiding and abetting the robbery and murder, and that is the equivalent of first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule.

The Court, in a 4-2 decision, ruled that using the felony-murder rule against a juvenile violates neither the U.S. nor the Iowa Constitution. The majority opinion was written by Justice Bruce Zager joined by Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Edward Mansfield and Thomas Waterman.  Justice Brent Appel filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice David Wiggins. Justice Daryl Hecht did not participate in the case.

The felony-murder rule, which has ancient roots in common law, is codified in Chapter 707 of the Iowa Code and transforms forcible felonies such as robbery into first-degree murder if a person is killed in the course of the felony, regardless of intent or premeditation.

By arguing the felony-murder rule is unconstitutional for juveniles, the Court said Harrison is asking for greater due-process rights for juvenile offenders than adult offenders. But the justices drew a distinction between criminal offenses and criminal sentences applied to juveniles.

While the Iowa Supreme Court has recognized that juveniles are “constitutionally different from adults,” the Court has never held that the elements of criminal offenses should be transformed to account for that difference, Zager wrote. Quoting from an earlier decision, he said the Court’s “constitutional analysis is not about excusing juvenile behavior, but imposing punishment in a way that is consistent with our understanding of humanity today.” This is achieved with individualized sentencing, Zager wrote.

While Harrison argues that life in prison is “grossly disproportionate” in his case, he was immediately eligible for parole, thus benefitting from the Court’s 2016 decision in State v. Sweet that held that juvenile offenders may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

The Parole Board provides juvenile offenders individualized analysis of the conditions of their past lives and their progress toward rehabilitation in deciding whether to approve early release, which Zager said is consistent with the Court’s approach to juvenile sentencing.

In his dissent, Justice Appel framed the Harrison case stark terms:

“The question in this case is whether an unarmed child may be subject to life in prison with the possibility of parole for participating in a marijuana robbery where a coparticipant brought a gun to the crime and killed the robbery victim.”

Iowa Supreme Court says convicted child abuser should get police reports that could help him win a new trial

By: Rox Laird on May 14th, 2018

A Black Hawk County man convicted of sexually abusing his granddaughter should have access to police reports that could undermine the credibility of his accuser, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled May 11.

David M. Powers was convicted of sex abuse based on allegations by his granddaughter, identified as K.P. in court records, who said the abuse occurred when she was age 13 and younger. Powers denied the accusations, and family members and a friend testified that she had told lies in the past.

In his petition for post-conviction relief, Powers sought to subpoena Waterloo police investigative reports about an incident that occurred after his trial in which K.P. reported that she had been sexually assaulted by gang members. Powers contended that police officers suspected K.P. had lied about that sexual assault, and he believed that would cast doubt on the truthfulness of her accusations against him.

After reviewing the police reports in camera, however, the District Court quashed the subpoena, saying K.P.’s accusations against the gang members had no relevance to the case against Powers.

The Iowa Supreme Court, in a 4-2 decision, disagreed and sent the case to the District Court and with instructions that Powers have access to the police reports. The majority opinion written by Justice Bruce Zager was joined by Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Brent Appel and David Wiggins. Justice Edward Mansfield filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Thomas Waterman. Justice Daryl Hecht did not participate in the case.

The Court noted that the issue was whether the police investigative reports should be made available to Powers, not whether they should be admissible in the post-conviction proceedings. That is for the trial judge to decide, but the Supreme Court said when evidence against a defendant relies almost exclusively on the complaining witness’ testimony, the witness’ credibility may be pivotal.

In Powers’ case, the State had no physical evidence or other witnesses and relied almost exclusively on the testimony of K.P.

“Though the jury did hear evidence from K.P.’s family and a friend that she had a reputation for lying,” Zager wrote, “evidence that K.P. had also made false allegations of sexual abuse against others would likely further undermine her credibility in Powers’s favor.”

In his dissent, Justice Mansfield said K.P.’s alleged false claim – which occurred after Powers’ trial – does not constitute newly discovered material evidence because it would at best be used to impeach her testimony. “Criminal trials have an endpoint, and events that occur after trial – as opposed to new evidence about pretrial events – aren’t a basis for reopening the proceedings,” he wrote.

The majority did concede that evidence of another lie may not have affected Powers’ jury had it been presented at trial, but Zager said Powers is entitled to the police reports now because “a significant argument could be made that evidence showing K.P. made false allegations of sexual abuse against others, at or around the time that the motion for new trial was pending, may have had an impact on the sentencing judge when he or she was considering and deciding the motion for new trial.”

An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief was submitted to the Court in this case by the Innocence Network, the Innocence Project of Iowa and the Midwest Innocence Project in support of Powers. The brief argued that equal access to exculpatory evidence reduces the imbalance of power between the state and criminal defendants.

Iowa Supreme Court’s sex-by-fraud decision comes down to the meaning of ‘consent’

By: Rox Laird on May 7th, 2018

The Iowa Supreme Court’s May 4 ruling upholding the sex-abuse conviction of a man who faked his identity turns on the question of consent. The question is not whether the woman consented to having sex, however, but the question is with whom.

Michael Kelso-Christy created a phony Facebook account to arrange a sexual encounter with a woman identified in the case as S.G. by impersonating her former high school classmate. Kelso-Christy enticed S.G. into meeting him at her home and to being blindfolded when he arrived. She discovered Kelso-Christy’s deception after he quickly exited the house without revealing his identity and she contacted the real classmate she thought she was meeting.

The Court, in a 4-2 decision written by Justice Mark Cady joined by Justices Edward Mansfield, Thomas Waterman and Bruce Zager, rejected Kelso-Christy’s argument that his conviction should be overturned because the sex was consensual. Deceptions such as Kelso-Christy perpetrated on his victim do not establish consent, the Court held. (Justice Daryl Hecht did not participate in the case.)

Kelso-Christy was convicted of burglary with intent to commit sexual abuse, which is defined in Iowa law as a sex act “done by force or against the will of another.” The “against the will” standard protects individuals from nonconsensual acts, the Court said, and the question becomes whether consent is meaningful.

Kelso-Christy argued that it could not be proved that he intended to commit sexual abuse because S.G. consented to sex. But the majority disagreed, saying that because of Kelso-Christy’s deception she did not give meaningful consent. The Court cited an earlier ruling that said consent may be negated “if an act is done that is different from the act the defendant said he would perform.”

Kelso-Christy knew his victim intended to have a sexual encounter with another man, but not with him, Cady wrote. “Rather, Kelso-Christy knew S.G. wished to have sex with someone else and simply decided that fact gave him license to proceed, regardless of S.G.’s actual feelings or preferences. Because it has long been the law in Iowa that consent to sex with one man cannot imply consent to sex with another, Kelso-Christy could not have believed S.G. consented to a sexual encounter with him.”

Justice David Wiggins filed a dissenting opinion joined by Justice Brent Appel.

Wiggins disagreed with the majority’s conclusion that Kelso-Christy’s intent to commit sexual abuse was proved, but his primary reason for departing from the majority is that, in his view, the statute under which Kelso-Christy was convicted does not address sexual abuse by fraud or deception.

“As a caveat, I emphasize that I am not saying the defendant did not commit a wrongful act,” Wiggins wrote. “Rather, because the allegations of fact do not contain all the necessary elements to find Kelso-Christy guilty of sexual abuse, the State could have charged the defendant with another crime.”

Iowa’s Supreme Court justices unanimous in a juvenile-sentencing decision

By: Rox Laird on April 24th, 2018

Iowa’s Supreme Court justices are often divided in juvenile sentencing cases, but they found common ground in a decision handed down April 20: The State can prosecute a juvenile as young as age 13.

Noah Riley Crooks argued in an appeal to the Supreme Court that the State cannot legally or constitutionally prosecute a 13-year-old accused murderer in adult court. In its decision handed down April 20, however, the Court said Iowa’s youthful offender statute “unambiguously” allows prosecution of offenders as young as 13, and such prosecutions do not violate the Iowa Constitution.

All seven justices agreed with that conclusion in the decision by Justice Thomas Waterman joined by Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager. Justice Brent Appel filed a separate concurring opinion, joined by Justices Daryl Hecht and David Wiggins, dissenting on a separate issue of the trial court’s procedure for sentencing Crooks.

Under the youthful-offender process, a juvenile is tried as an adult and, if convicted, remains under the jurisdiction of the juvenile system until reaching the age of 18. At that point the District Court conducts a sentencing hearing. The sentence may range from immediate release to a prison term.

Crooks was found guilty by a Mitchell County jury of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his mother. He was 13 at the time of the crime, and he was waived by a juvenile court judge into adult court to be tried as a youthful offender. After he turned 18, following his commitment to the State Training School, Crooks was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison with immediate eligibility for parole.

The Supreme Court rejected Crooks’ argument that the Iowa Legislature did not intend a 13-year-old to be prosecuted in adult court under the youthful-offender statute. In fact, Justice Waterman wrote, the Legislature used different age limits throughout the juvenile-justice statutes, it “knows how to set a lower age limit” and it “chose to include thirteen-year-olds within the youthful-offender waiver provision.”

Crooks also argued that prosecuting youthful offenders as young as 13 is unconstitutional in two ways: First, the process of waiving a juvenile into adult court as a youthful offender is by itself cruel and unusual punishment; and, sentencing a juvenile in adult court for a crime committed at age 13 is categorically unconstitutional.

The Court rejected both arguments.

Waterman wrote that Iowa’s waiver provision for youthful offenders does not constitute punishment within the meaning of the Iowa Constitution, let alone “cruel and unusual” punishment. And Iowa’s youthful-offender process exceeds the constitutional requirements imposed by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court with regard to sentencing juveniles.

While concurring in part with the majority opinion, Justice Appel dissented in part to say the District Court at the sentencing stage should have made specific findings considering “the mitigating factors of youth when sentencing children in adult court.”

Search ends at personal belongings in a targeted-warrant case, the Iowa Supreme Court rules

By: Rox Laird on January 11th, 2018

Danielle Brown was one of five people in the bedroom of a house when a Des Moines police SWAT team swarmed in to execute a warrant naming a male occupant of the house to be searched for drugs and weapons. Brown was not named in the warrant but police searched her purse and found a small amount of marijuana inside.

She was subsequently convicted of possession of marijuana.

The Iowa Supreme Court Jan. 5 reversed a ruling of the Polk County District Court admitting evidence from the search of Brown’s purse, however, saying it violated the Iowa Constitution’s equivalent of the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In an opinion written by Justice Brent Appel joined by Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices David Wiggins and Daryl Hecht, the Court ruled that a person not named in a search warrant has an expectation of privacy for personal effects – such as a purse – that they effectively have in their possession.

Justice Thomas Waterman disagreed with the majority in a dissenting opinion joined by Justices Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager that argued for a clear rule giving police officers flexibility in executing search warrants in such situations.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police with a valid search warrant may search entire premises, including containers. But they may not search a person who is not named in the warrant who happens to be present during the search. Federal and states courts are divided, however, on the question of whether a visitor’s personal effects, such as a purse, may be searched.

Courts have used several tests to assess the legality of searches of visitors’ personal belongings, including whether the person has actual possession, say by wearing a coat or holding a briefcase or clutching a purse.

The Iowa Supreme Court majority rejected such a strict approach in this situation, however.

“A holding of this court that a visitor loses all reasonable expectations of privacy when visiting a premises by hanging a coat on a rack or placing a purse on a chair or on the floor, simply does not comport with reality,” Appel wrote. “A visitor who placed her purse on a sofa would be shocked to learn that her host, let alone government agents, was free to rummage around the purse looking for interesting or entertaining items while the visitor was in the other room.”

When Des Moines police were conducting the search, Brown was kneeling with her arms handcuffed behind her back, and her purse was on the floor nearby.

The majority said the legal theory of “constructive possession” should be applied in this case, which means that even though Brown was not holding the purse in her hands she was in “constructive, if not actual possession of the purse.” Thus, it was off limits to the police.

Writing for the three justices in dissent, however, Waterman said there were good reasons why Brown should have been covered by the search warrant.

When Des Moines police entered the bedroom at 5:45 a.m. Brown was smoking methamphetamine, Waterman pointed out, and she was “participating in an illegal activity directly related to the sale of methamphetamine, which was the reason for searching the house.”

Other courts, he said, rely on visitors’ perceived connection to the activity targeted by a warrant to uphold a search of the visitors’ personal effects.

He said the Iowa Supreme Court has traditionally preferred bright-line rules when police officers have to make quick decisions in balancing public safety and individual rights. “Such clarity and ease of application is especially important during chaotic police raids on a drug den,” he said.

In short, Waterman wrote: “In my view, the search of Brown’s purse was constitutional.”

Eighth Circuit upholds Sorenson prison sentence for lying about taking money for political endorsements

By: Rox Laird on December 13th, 2017

Former Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson’s 15-month sentence in federal prison for lying about taking payments for political endorsements was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors had recommended probation, but U.S. District Judge Robert W. Pratt of Des Moines said Sorenson should do time in prison because accepting “dollars for political favors . . . is the antithesis of civic virtue.”

Sorenson appealed the sentence to the Court of Appeals, but a panel composed of Eighth Circuit Judges James Loken, Raymond Gruender and Duane Benton upheld the sentence in a four-page per curiam ruling.

Sorenson was serving in the Iowa Senate in 2012 when he switched his presidential primary endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul a matter of days ahead of the Iowa caucuses. He had been paid a total of $132,915.47 from the Bachmann and Paul campaigns, none of which was reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and he lied about the payments in a sworn deposition.

Sorenson pleaded guilty to “willfully causing false expenditure reports to the FEC” and “falsifying records in contemplation of or relation to a federal investigation intending to obstruct justice.”

Based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, that translated into a sentence of 24 to 30 months, but Pratt settled on 15 months, which was still harsher than the government prosecutors’ recommendation of two years’ probation and fines.

Pratt explained his reasoning in a January in a 25-page sentencing memorandum.

“The offending conduct in this case — the sale of one’s political influence as an elected official and proactive concealment of the transactions from the public and from regulators — can only be described in one way: corruption,” Pratt wrote.

“When it comes to political corruption, the community — historically and presently — requires that real, tangible, and severe consequences meet those who gain a position of public trust and then abuse that trust for personal gain,” he wrote.  “Unless that traditional principle is honored, political corruption will slowly corrode the foundations of our democracy until it collapses under its own weight.”

Iowa Supreme Court urged to ban criminal prosecution of 13-year-olds in adult court

By: Rox Laird on November 10th, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court is being asked to take another step toward protecting juvenile offenders from prison sentences designed for adults in an appeal set for argument Tuesday.

In State v. Noah Crooks, the appellant argues that the State cannot legally or constitutionally prosecute a 13-year-old accused murderer in adult court.

The Iowa Supreme Court has handed down a series of rulings on juvenile sentencing following decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court based on evidence that juvenile offenders’ characters are not fully formed and are thus less culpable than adult offenders.

The Iowa Court’s rulings include a 2014 decision (State v. Lyle) that, in the case of juveniles, one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum prison sentences prescribed by the Legislature violate the Iowa Constitution’s equivalent of the Eighth Amendment.

Crooks urges the Court to take that ruling one more step and rule that children under the age of 14 cannot be prosecuted in adult court.

Noah Crooks was found guilty by a Mitchell County jury of second-degree murder in the shooting death of his mother. He was 13 at the time of the crime, and he was waived by a juvenile court judge into adult court to be tried as a “youthful offender.” After he turned 18, following his commitment to the State Training School, Crooks was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.

In a legal brief submitted to the Court, Crooks’ counsel recites the Iowa Supreme Court’s rulings on juvenile sentencing that have embraced the U.S. Supreme Court’s reasoning and built upon it.

“Crooks requests this Court take the next logical step and define at what age a child may be subject to adult prosecution and punishment,” his appellate attorney argues. “The waiver of and sentencing of a thirteen year old child violates Article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. This Court should adopt a categorical bar on imposing punishment upon a child under the age of fourteen in adult court.”

The State, in a brief filed by Attorney General Tom Miller, responds that waiving a juvenile to adult court is not, by itself, punishment under the Constitution; it is just a “change in forum” where guilt is then established. Then the juvenile receives a deferred judgment until age 18, and during that time the state has the opportunity to rehabilitate the offender for possible release.

“Adult punishment would be imposed only when the child turns eighteen and only if the juvenile system has been unable to rehabilitate the child,” the State argues. “Therefore, the waiver decision does not impose ‘punishment’ for the purpose of Article I, section 17 [of the Iowa Constitution].”

The oral argument in State v. Crooks is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Iowa Supreme Court finds a warrantless breath test while operating a boat was involuntary and violated the Iowa Constitution.

By: Rox Laird on July 3rd, 2017

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a warrantless breath test used to prosecute Dale Pettijohn for operating a boat while intoxicated violated Article I, section 8 of the Iowa Constitution, the state equivalent of the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that prohibits unreasonable searches and sets requirements for warrants.

Iowa courts recognize two exceptions to the warrant requirement: One exception is if the search is tied to an arrest – or in the legal argot, a “search incident to arrest.” Another is if a suspect consents to a search. Neither exception applied in Pettijohn’s case, the court said in a 4-3 decision written by Justice David Wiggins joined by Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Brent Appel and Daryl Hecht.

Justice Thomas Waterman filed a sharp dissent, joined by Justices Edward Mansfield and Bruce Zager, in which he criticized the majority for “concocting new theories” to “make bad law.”

“The majority goes well beyond what Pettijohn argued in district court or on appeal and thereby blindsides the State and unfairly reverses the district court on theories never presented in that forum,” Waterman wrote. “We are supposed to be impartial adjudicators rather than partisan advocates.”

Dale Pettijohn was stopped by an Iowa Department of Natural Resources water patrol officer while piloting a pontoon boat on Saylorville Reservoir. Pettijohn was arrested and taken to the Polk City Police Department where he underwent a breath test after signing an “implied consent” form. He was subsequently convicted in Polk County District Court.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Pettijohn argued that the breath test violated his constitutional rights. The court agreed, basing its decision on the Iowa Constitution.

First, while a warrantless search conducted in the course of an arrest may be legally justified to prevent the destruction of evidence, the court said that does not necessarily apply to evidence lost because of the dissipation of alcohol from the body.

The state drunk-boating law allows a two-hour window of opportunity for a valid breath test, during which time an officer can obtain a warrant based on probable cause, which can be done electronically now with expanded online access to judges.

There may be exceptions when “unusual circumstances” make it impractical to obtain a warrant within two hours of witnessing the arrestee operating a boat, but the court rejected an across-the-board exception to the warrant requirement in such cases.

Second, a warrantless search may be allowed if the suspect consents. Under Iowa’s implied-consent law, in exchange for the privilege of being able to boat on navigable waterways, a person suspected of operating a boat while drunk “is deemed to have given consent” to a blood, breath or urine test. The individual is given a choice: Sign the form giving consent or face civil penalties, criminal penalties and/or the loss of boating privileges.

Consent to a warrantless search cannot be coerced but must be freely given after being informed of the consequences of refusing. After weighing the facts of Pettijohn’s case, the court concluded his consent was not knowingly given: Pettijohn was intoxicated when he signed the consent waiver; he was arrested and transported to the police station, which involves a greater degree of inherent coercion; and the implied-consent advisory did not advise Pettijohn of his constitutional right to refuse a warrantless search.

Also, the waiver advisory form was misleading because it warned only of the civil consequences of submitting to the breath test – a penalty of $500 to $2,000 and suspension of boating privileges for one to six years. But the form did not warn of potential criminal penalty – mandatory imprisonment for 48 hours to one year and a mandatory fine of $1,000 to $7,500.

“The mere fact that Pettijohn submitted to the breath test after being read the implied-consent advisory is inadequate to establish his effective consent,” Wiggins wrote. “Because Pettijohn made the decision to submit to the breath test in the inherently coercive context of custodial detention with incomplete and inaccurate information, while intoxicated and facing the prospect of significant penalties if he refused to submit, we conclude his consent to the warrantless search was not voluntary and uncoerced.”

Iowans headed to the lake this summer might beware reading too much into Friday’s Iowa Supreme Court’s ruling that reversed a drunken boater’s conviction: You may be able to refuse to take a breath test if you drink to excess while boating, but don’t expect the same privilege to apply when driving home from the lake.

The court emphasized that its ruling is limited to boating on Iowa waterways, not driving on the state’s roads. “A person reading this decision should not jump to the conclusion that our analysis will make the statutory scheme governing the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence unconstitutional,” Wiggins wrote. “Any decision relating to operating a motor vehicle while under the influence will have to wait for another case raising its constitutionality,” he added.

Supreme Court’s lottery ruling a lesson for Iowa law enforcement

By: Rox Laird on June 23rd, 2017

Law enforcement authorities who dilly-dally in investigating crimes face the prospect of losing at trial because the statute of limitations clock has run out, the Iowa Supreme ruled Friday.

The Court threw out the 2015 conviction of Eddie Tipton, a former Multistate Lottery Association security expert who used his knowledge of random-selection computer coding to rig a drawing and then tried to collect a $16.5 million winning Hot Lotto jackpot.

The majority opinion was written by Justice Brent Appel joined by all justices except Edward Mansfield, who disagreed with one part of the 70-page decision while concurring with the rest.

Friday’s decision comes too late for Tipton, who is scheduled to plead guilty to a similar lottery-rigging charge on June 29. But it is a cautionary tale for law-enforcement officials, prosecutors and trial judges to consider in future cases.

A Polk County jury convicted Tipton of two felonies: fraudulently tampering with lottery equipment and fraudulently attempting to redeem a lottery ticket.

Tipton challenged his conviction on a number of grounds, all of which were rejected by the Supreme Court. But Friday’s decision focused most extensively on the issue of the statute of limitations, which gives the government a deadline by which criminal prosecutions must begin.

Quoting earlier court decisions, Appel said these statutory deadlines are “designed to protect individuals from having to defend themselves against charges when the basic facts may have become obscured by the passage of time.” Yet they also “have the salutary effect of encouraging law enforcement officials promptly to investigate suspected criminal activity.”

The trial judge dismissed Tipton’s contention that the state missed the three-year statute of limitations in his case, citing exceptions in the state criminal code for crimes that amount to “continuing offenses,” and a specific exemption for fraud.

The Supreme Court disagreed, however.

Relying on earlier Iowa decisions, the Court said there is nothing explicit in state law that says fraudulent “uttering, passing and redeeming, and tampering with intent to influence” are continuing offenses. “Unlike classic continuing offenses such as kidnapping, bigamy, or possession,” Appel wrote, “the evil sought to be prohibited does not inherently continue on a daily basis” with those crimes.

One key question for setting the statute-of-limitations clock: At what point did the state discover, or should it have discovered, that Tipton tampering with a lottery computers to rig the drawing? The answer is whether the state exercised due diligence in its investigation. If the answer is yes, the state would have been entitled to a one-year extension of the statute of limitations.

The Court, however, said the state failed to show that it showed the necessary due diligence in the Tipton investigation, taking more than three years pursuing leads that could easily have been achieved earlier.

“An effort to unlawfully obtain millions of dollars in lottery winnings is a serious crime,” Appel wrote. “Multistate lottery funds provide a significant source of revenue for the participating states. Such revenues are dependent upon the integrity of the lottery program.” And the Legislature has emphasized the need for the lottery to operate with integrity.

“Finally,” he wrote, “there can be no question of the moral culpability of an offender attempting to swindle the lottery. In its investigation, the State must act with due diligence in light of the seriousness of the crime in order to avail itself of the one-year extension of the statute of limitations.”

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On Brief is devoted to appellate litigation, with a focus on the Iowa Supreme Court, the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.