Justia.com Opinion Summary:Download as PDF
Michael Anderson, a convicted sex offender, was placed on electric monitoring and home supervision while on probation. After the district court revoked Anderson's probation, the court reinstated the prison terms. Anderson did not receive sentencing credit for the time he lived at home. Anderson filed an application for postconviction relief seeking such credit. The district court denied Anderson' application, concluding the statutory scheme only provided sentencing credit for time spent in a jail-like facility. The court of appeals affirmed. On review, the Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and reversed the district court order denying credit, holding that the plain language of Iowa Code 907.3(3) requires credit for the time Anderson was committed to electronic monitoring and home supervision during his probation. Remanded.Receive FREE Daily Opinion Summaries by Email
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF IOWA
Filed July 29, 2011
STATE OF IOWA,
On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Dale E.
Defendant seeks sentencing credit for probationary period when he
was subject to electronic monitoring and home supervision. COURT OF
REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED.
Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Patricia A. Reynolds,
Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant
Attorney General, Stephen H. Holmes, County Attorney, and Mary Howell
Sirna, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
“Ours not to reason why, ours but to read, and apply. It is our
duty to accept the law as the legislative body enacts it.” Holland v. State,
253 Iowa 1006, 1011, 115 N.W.2d 161, 164 (1962) (Thompson, J.). 1 In
this case we must decide whether a convicted sex offender incarcerated
after revocation of his probation is entitled to credit against his prison
sentence for time spent living at home under supervised probation
wearing an electronic monitoring device on his ankle. The district court
denied the credit, and a divided court of appeals affirmed. Although it is
counterintuitive to count days living at home against a state prison
sentence, we conclude the plain language of Iowa Code section 907.3(3)
(2007), requires credit for the time Anderson was committed to electronic
monitoring and home supervision during his probation.
vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the district court
ruling, and remand for entry of an order providing that sentencing credit.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
information with two counts of second-degree sexual abuse. On April 15,
2004, Anderson entered an Alford plea of guilty to two counts of enticing
away a minor, a class “D” felony. The district court accepted the plea
and entered judgment.
The district court sentenced Anderson to two
1Justice Thompson’s timeless admonition regarding our court’s role in statutory
interpretation evokes the syntax of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s epic poem “The Charge of
the Light Brigade”:
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
five-year prison terms, to be served consecutively, but suspended both
sentences and placed him on probation with the Second Judicial District
Department of Correctional Services (DCS) for five years on each count.
Anderson’s first probation requirement was to undergo sex
offender treatment, residing “at the Marshalltown Residential Facility
until such time as maximum benefits ha[d] been derived.”
could leave for work, but otherwise had to remain at the facility.
Anderson was discharged from the Marshalltown facility on March 5,
2005, subject to the remaining conditions of his probation. Any benefits
he received from his sex-offender treatment proved short-lived.
The DCS placed Anderson on electric monitoring and home
supervision. An electronic monitoring device was attached to his ankle
to be worn at all times. Probation officer Ellen Barker was assigned to
his case, and he had to check in with her daily. Anderson was required
to maintain employment, and he worked six days a week.
allowed him one hour to return home from work in order to run errands.
He could obtain permission to leave his house in the evening for
entertainment, such as attending movies; and with permission, he could
remain out until 1 a.m. and travel outside the county.
Anderson had unlimited access to television, internet, and video games.
Another probation requirement prohibited Anderson from contact
with children age sixteen or younger. On March 3, 2006, Barker filed a
report of violation, stating Anderson had “numerous contacts with
sixteen-year-old girls.” Specifically, Anderson, then age thirty-seven, told
Barker he was getting calls from both the parents of his “girlfriend,” S.R.,
and the Iowa Falls police threatening to press charges if he did not stay
away from her.
He claimed he thought S.R. was age twenty.
obtained the police report indicating S.R. was age sixteen, met Anderson
over the internet on the website Mate1.com, got together with him five or
six times, and had spent the night at his house. The report also noted
Anderson had provided Bacardi rum to S.R.’s sixteen-year-old friend. On
March 10, Barker went to Anderson’s home to warn him against
Later that evening, Barker received a tip from the
police that S.R. was at Anderson’s home. Barker went there with two
officers and found S.R. hiding naked in a spare bedroom under the bed.
A search of Anderson’s computer revealed he frequented pornography
websites, dating websites, and chat rooms, and he downloaded pictures
of clothed children.
On May 24, the district court revoked Anderson’s probation and
reinstated the prison terms not to exceed ten years.
sentencing credit for the time he spent in the Marshalltown residential
facility, but not for the time he lived at home under electronic monitoring
and supervision. Anderson filed an application for postconviction relief
seeking such credit.
The district court denied Anderson’s application,
concluding the statutory scheme only provided sentencing credit for time
spent in a jail-like facility.
The district court reasoned his electronic
monitoring and home supervision did not restrict his liberty in a manner
similar to jail and that awarding him sentencing credit would “eviscerate
the difference between probation and incarceration” and “lead to an
absurd result.” The court of appeals affirmed with a dissent. We granted
Anderson’s application for further review.
II. Standard of Review.
We review statutory interpretation issues raised in postconviction
relief actions for correction of errors at law.
N.W.2d 509, 519–20 (Iowa 2003).
Harrington v. State, 659
III. Principles of Statutory Interpretation.
Anderson argues both Iowa Code sections 903A.5(1) and 907.3(3)
entitle him to receive credit for time served under electronic monitoring
and home supervision. The State argues the legislature only intended to
award defendants sentencing credit for time served in a jail-like setting.
When tasked with interpreting a statute we have stated:
“[O]ur primary goal is to give effect to the intent of the
legislature.” State v. Anderson, 782 N.W.2d 155, 158 (Iowa
2010). “That intent is evidenced by the words used in the
statute.” State v. Kidd, 562 N.W.2d 764, 765 (Iowa 1997).
“When a statute is plain and its meaning clear, courts are
not permitted to search for meaning beyond its express
terms.” State v. Chang, 587 N.W.2d 459, 461 (Iowa 1998).
In the absence of legislative definition, we give words their
In interpreting criminal statutes,
however, we have repeatedly stated that provisions
establishing the scope of criminal liability are to be strictly
construed with doubts resolved therein in favor of the
State v. Hearn, 797 N.W.2d 577, 583 (Iowa 2011) (other citations omitted)
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also State v. Rodenburg, 562
N.W.2d 186, 189 (Iowa 1997) (construing sentencing credit provision
using “the legal maxim that when statutory language is not ambiguous,
or when a statute is plain and its meaning is clear, this court need not
search for legislative intent or a meaning beyond the expressed
3 Norman J. Singer & J.D. Shambie Singer, Statutes and
Statutory Construction § 58:4, at 120 (7th ed. 2008) (statutes impinging
on liberty interests are subject to strict construction).
IV. Iowa Code Section 903A.5(1).
Anderson argued he is entitled to credit for time served monitored
at home based on Iowa Code section 903A.5(1), which awards sentencing
credit to any “inmate . . . confined to a county jail or other correctional or
mental facility at any time prior to sentencing, or after sentencing but
prior to the case having been decided on appeal.” 2 The district court and
court of appeals correctly determined Anderson is not entitled to
sentencing credit under section 903A.5(1).
Anderson’s electronic monitoring and home supervision does not
make him an “inmate . . . confined to a county jail or other correctional
or mental facility” within the meaning of section 903A.5(1).
Rodenburg, we noted, “The statutory words here are plain and
unambiguous and clearly only allow credit for time served in state
correctional institutions or detention facilities.” 562 N.W.2d at 189. We
held the defendant was not entitled to sentencing credit for time spent in
police custody at a hospital because the hospital was not a “jail or other
Similarly, Anderson’s home is not a “jail or
other correctional facility.” Section 903A.5(1) does not entitle Anderson
to sentencing credit for time spent under home supervision and
V. Iowa Code Section 907.3(3).
A. The Statutory Scheme. Sentencing credits are also allowed
under Iowa Code section 907.3(3), which provides:
By record entry at the time of or after sentencing, the court
may suspend the sentence and place the defendant on
probation upon such terms and conditions as it may require
including commitment to an alternate jail facility or a
community correctional residential treatment facility to be
followed by a term of probation as specified in section 907.7,
or commitment of the defendant to the judicial district
department of correctional services for supervision or services
under section 901B.1 at the level of sanctions which the
district department determines to be appropriate and the
payment of fees imposed under section 905.14. A person so
committed who has probation revoked shall be given credit for
such time served.
July 1, 2011, the legislature amended section 903A.5(1) to award
sentencing credit for time spent presentence in a “municipal holding facility” as well as
“county jail” and “other correctional or mental facility.” 2011 Iowa Acts H.F. 271, § 3.
(Emphasis added.) The court of appeals concluded this provision did not
require Anderson to receive credit for his time spent under home
supervision monitored electronically with the ankle bracelet.
This court, in 1982, construed an earlier version of this statute to
hold a defendant was not entitled to sentencing credit for time spent on
probation because no provision specifically authorized such a sentencing
Trecker v. State, 320 N.W.2d 594, 595 (Iowa 1982) (“Denial of
credit is appropriate under circumstances where the restrictions imposed
cannot be equated with incarceration.”). The court of appeals majority
relied on Trecker to deny Anderson’s request for credit. Section 907.3(3),
however, was amended in 1996 specifically to provide defendants
sentencing credit for time served while “commit[ed] . . . to the judicial
district department of correctional services for supervision or services
under section 901B.1 at the level of sanctions which the district
department determines to be appropriate.”
1996 Iowa Acts ch. 1193,
§ 19. The 1996 amendment added the statutory authorization Trecker
found lacking earlier. This is the operative statutory language governing
This appeal presents our first opportunity to
construe the statute as amended in 1996.
Sections 907.3(3) and 901B.1 should be read together to determine
when sentencing credit is awarded. Iowa Code section 901B.1 provides a
“corrections continuum” describing five levels of corrections sanctions.
The State argues the legislature intended to limit sentencing credit to
only jail-like probation sanctions because, otherwise, a defendant would
be entitled to sentencing credit for any probation sanction, even
unsupervised sanctions such as fines or community service. The State’s
argument overlooks distinctions between the continuum’s different
sanction levels and section 907.3(3)’s language restricting sentencing
credit to sanctions when the DCS provides “supervision or services.”
sanctions,” which include self-monitored sanctions and sanctions “which
are monitored for compliance by other than the . . . department of
correctional services.” Iowa Code § 901B.1(1)(a). A defendant subjected
to a level one sanction is not committed to correctional services “for
Id. §§ 901B.1(1)(a), 907.3(3).
supervision or services.”
defendant is not entitled to sentencing credit for level one sanctions.
The remaining sanction levels all require the DCS to supervise the
“supervised sanctions,” and “intensive supervision sanctions,” which
include electronic monitoring, day reporting, and work release programs.
incarceration” and include residential facilities and house arrest with
electronic monitoring. Id. § 901B.1(1)(c). Level four and five sanctions
Id. § 901B.1(1)(d)–(e). Since these sanctions all
involve “supervision or services” under section 901B.1, section 907.3(3)
plainly states defendants subjected to these sanctions are entitled to
sentencing credit. In summary, when sections 907.3(3) and 901B.1 are
read together, a defendant is entitled to sentencing credit “for such time
served” while he is committed to the DCS and placed in level two or
greater sanctions under section 901B.1.
The district court’s judgment and sentence “placed [Anderson]
Correctional Services” and thereby committed Anderson to the DCS. The
requirements. Regardless of whether Anderson’s sanctions are classified
as level three “house arrest” or level two “intensive supervised sanctions,”
Anderson was “committed” to the DCS for “supervision or services.” See
State v. Pickett, 671 N.W.2d 866, 871 (Iowa 2003) (finding DCS’s
“administrative supervision of the defendant’s probation, checking for
forthcoming” to mean the defendant was “subject to supervision” within
the meaning of section 905.14(1)).
The plain language of section
907.3(3), therefore, entitles Anderson to sentencing credit for his time
served subject to electronic monitoring and home supervision.
B. Alleged Ambiguities.
The State nevertheless argues section
907.3(3) is ambiguous, contending “it is unclear whether ‘so committed’
[in section 907.3(3)] refers to placement in a residential facility, to
placement in the corrections continuum or both.” The State also argues
“such time served” should be limited to time spent in a jail-like facility.
These arguments are defeated by the statute’s use of the disjunctive “or.”
Section 907.3(3) refers to “commitment to an alternate jail facility or a
community residential treatment facility . . . , or commitment . . . to the
judicial district department of correctional services for supervision or
services.” (Emphasis added.) The provision’s next sentence states, “A
person so committed . . . shall be given credit for such time served.” Iowa
Code § 907.3(3) (emphasis added).
Section 907.3(3) thereby describes
several alternatives to which a defendant may be “committed.”
provision’s final sentence, stating a person “so committed” is entitled to
sentencing credit, plainly applies to each of the alternatives for
“commitment.” We find no textual ambiguity. 3
we find the operative statutory language to be unambiguous, we need
not decide whether the rule of lenity applies to a sentencing credit statute. See Bifulco
v. United States, 447 U.S. 381, 387, 100 S. Ct. 2247, 2252, 65 L. Ed. 2d 205, 211
(1980) (“In past cases the Court has made it clear that this principle of statutory
The State further argues “the ambiguity of the provision is
heightened given its legislative history.”
Before 1996, section 907.3(3)
referred only to commitment to an alternate jail facility or a community
correctional residential treatment facility and stated a person “so
committed” is entitled to credit “for such time served.”
§ 907.3(3) (1995).
The 1996 amendment added the phrase “or
commitment of the defendant to the judicial district department of
correctional services for supervision or services,” without amending the
next sentence providing credit for “such time served” by persons “so
1996 Iowa Acts ch. 1193, § 19.
The State suggests the
legislature added the DCS “supervision or services” language without
intending to require sentencing credit for persons living outside jail-like
facilities—that is, the failure to narrow the next sentence was an
oversight. Speculation that the legislature did not mean what it said is
unpersuasive. See Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(m) (“In construing statutes,
the court searches for the legislative intent as shown by what the
legislature said, rather than what it should or might have said.”). The
legislature’s chosen language awards sentencing credit to defendants
committed to the DCS for “supervision or services,” including those living
at home under electronic monitoring. It is worth repeating in full Justice
Thompson’s timeless admonition regarding our court’s role in statutory
Why the change was made, why the legislature deemed it
proper . . . , we do not know, nor is it important that we
should understand. Ours not to reason why, ours but to
read, and apply. It is our duty to accept the law as the
construction [the rule of lenity] applies not only to interpretations of the substantive
ambit of criminal prohibitions, but also to the penalties they impose.”); Hearn, 797
N.W.2d at 585 (“The rule of lenity requires that ambiguous statutes imposing criminal
liability be strictly construed in favor of the defendant.”).
legislative body enacts it. We do not decide what the
legislature might have said, or what it should have said in
the light of the public interest to be served, but only what it
did say; and this we must gather from the language actually
used. When a statute is plain and its meaning clear, there is
no room for interpretation; or, to put it in another way, there
is only one possible construction. . . .
If we do not follow the clear language of a statute, or of
the Constitution, but by a fallacious theory of construction
attempt to impose our own ideas of what is best, even if in so
doing we conceive that we are promoting the public welfare
and achieving a desirable result, we are indulging in judicial
legislation and are invading the province of the Legislative
branch of the Government, or of the electorate in amending
the basic law. The end does not in such cases justify the
means. We must accept [the statute] as the legislature wrote
it, and its meaning is definite and beyond fair debate.
Holland, 253 Iowa at 1011, 115 N.W.2d at 164.
Finally, the State argues the “statutory scheme” indicates the
legislature only intended a defendant to receive sentencing credit when
committed to a jail-like facility. The State notes sentencing credits are
not allowed following revocation of a deferred sentence. See Iowa Code
§ 907.3(2) (2007). According to the State, the legislature would not have
intended different sentencing credit results for deferred sentences and
suspended sentences. We disagree, based on the differences between the
The State is comparing apples and oranges.
“ ‘[d]eferred sentence’ means a sentencing option whereby the court
enters an adjudication of guilt but does not impose a sentence.”
The court retains discretion to impose any sentence it
originally could have imposed if the defendant fails to comply “with
conditions set by the court as a requirement of the deferred sentence.”
Id. By contrast, a “ ‘[s]uspended sentence’ . . . imposes a sentence and
then suspends execution,” leaving the court no discretion but to impose
the original sentence in the event of revocation.
Id. § 907.1(3).
legislature could choose to treat these sentencing options differently
when allowing credits.
We are duty bound to apply the statutes as
C. The Absurd Results Doctrine. The State argues it would be
absurd to award Anderson sentencing credit for his time “served” living
at home with the electronic ankle bracelet and observes, “In essence,
Anderson requests credit for time he spent committing further sex
offenses and sexually victimizing more young girls.” The State argues we
must construe the statute to avoid this absurd result.
We recently discussed the absurd results doctrine in statutory
construction in Sherwin-Williams Co. v. Iowa Department of Revenue, 789
N.W.2d 417 (Iowa 2010). We explained the doctrine as follows:
“[E]ven in the absence of statutory ambiguity, departure
from literal construction is justified when such construction
would produce an absurd and unjust result and the literal
construction in the particular action is clearly inconsistent
with the purposes and policies of the act.”
789 N.W.2d at 427 (quoting Pac. Ins. Co. v. Or. Auto. Ins. Co., 490 P.2d
899, 901 (Haw. 1971)). In view of our obligation to ascertain the intent of
we are mindful of the cautionary advice of one commentator
that “the absurd results doctrine should be used sparingly
because it entails the risk that the judiciary will displace
legislative policy on the basis of speculation that the
legislature could not have meant what it unmistakably said.”
Id. (quoting Sutherland Statutory Construction § 45:12, at 105–07).
In Sherwin-Williams, we declined to apply the absurd results
doctrine, even though the outcome under the plain language of the
statute—allowing a retailer to claim a manufacturer’s tax credit—
appeared counterintuitive. Id. at 427–28. We emphasized “we will not
ignore clear legislative language merely because it leads to a result that
seems contrary to the court’s expectations.” Id. at 427. Similarly, it may
be counterintuitive to allow credit against prison time for the period
Anderson spent living at home wearing an electronic ankle bracelet, but
this result is not so absurd as to permit us to disregard the plain
language of the statute requiring that credit. See Holland, 253 Iowa at
1011, 115 N.W.2d at 164; Iowa R. App. P. 6.904(3)(m).
State courts in construing their respective state statutes have
reached different conclusions as to whether sentencing credit is awarded
for electronic monitoring and home supervision.
Several states allow
sentencing credit for electronic monitoring at home. See, e.g., State v.
Guillen, 32 P.3d 812, 813 (N.M. Ct. App. 2001) (holding as a matter of
sentencing credit under its statute); 4 Harris v. Charles, ___ P.3d ___, ___
(Wash. 2011) (noting defendants convicted of a felony receive sentencing
credit for time subjected to electronic and home monitoring pretrial).5
Most courts have held electronic monitoring and home supervision does
not satisfy the “custodial” or related requirements of their state
See, e.g., Matthew v. State, 152 P.3d 469,
sentencing credit statutes.
473 (Alaska Ct. App. 2007) (holding confinement to home and work
through electronic supervision does not equate to “custody”); Bush v.
Arkansas, 2 S.W.3d 761, 766 (Ark. 1999) (finding electronic monitoring
does not place a defendant “in custody” within meaning of sentencing
credit statute); State v. Climer, 896 P.2d 346, 350 (Idaho Ct. App. 1995)
N.M. Stat. Ann. § 31–20–12 (West, Westlaw through 1st Reg. legislative
sess. 2011) (“A person held in official confinement . . . shall . . . be given credit for the
period spent in presentence confinement . . . .”).
5See Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 9.94A.505(6), 9.94A.030(8), (28), (34) (West,
Westlaw through 2011 legislation eff. through May 31, 2011) (stating sentencing credit
is awarded against a felony sentence for presentence “confinement,” which includes
“partial confinement,” “work release,” and “home detention”).
“incarceration”); State v. Muratella, 483 N.W.2d 128, 129–30 (Neb. 1992)
(“Being confined to one’s home, subject to electronic monitoring, with the
freedom to engage in employment and probation-related activities, is far
less onerous than being imprisoned.”); State v. Faulkner, 657 N.E.2d
602, 604 (Ohio Ct. App. 1995) (finding pretrial electronic home
Commonwealth v. Kyle, 874 A.2d 12, 20 (Pa. 2005) (holding time spent
on electronic monitoring while on bail release does not constitute
“custody” within meaning of sentencing credit statute); Tagorda v. State,
977 S.W.2d 632, 633–34 (Tex. Ct. App. 1998) (concluding defendant not
entitled to credit for electronic monitoring as condition of bond before
Neither party cited a case from a state with a statutory provision
similar to Iowa Code section 907.3(3), nor did we find a similar provision.
The cases from other jurisdictions provide little guidance here because
the operative statutory language differs from section 907.3(3). Notably,
6The state courts that award sentencing credit only when the defendant is
subjected to “custody” or “jail-like” sanctions applied statutes that expressly require
such a standard. See, e.g., Alaska Stat. Ann. § 12.55.025(c) (West, Westlaw through
2010 Second Reg. Sess.) (awarding “credit for time spent in custody”); Ark. Code Ann.
§ 5–4–404 (West, Westlaw through 2011 Reg. Sess.) (requiring probation “custody” or
“imprisonment or confinement” to receive credit against the sentence); Idaho Code Ann.
§ 18–309 (West, Westlaw through 2011 ch. 1–335, eff. on or before July 1, 2011)
(awarding credit “for any period of incarceration”); Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 83–1, 106
(West, Westlaw through Second Reg. Sess. 2010) (providing sentencing credit “to an
offender for time spent in custody”); Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 2921.01(e), 2967.191
(West, Westlaw through 2011 Files 1–19 filed by May 27, 2011) (awarding sentencing
credit for “confinement in any public or private facility”); 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 9760(1) (West, Westlaw through 2011 Acts 1–9 and 11–21) (“Credit . . . shall be given
to the defendant for all time spent in custody.”); Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 42.03,
§ 2(a) (West, Westlaw through chapters eff. immediately through ch. 41 of 2011 Reg.
Sess.) (awarding credit for presentencing “time that the defendant has spent in jail”).
The American Bar Association’s “black letter” standards also recommend awarding
sentencing credit for “time spent in custody” prior to trial, sentencing, appeal, or during
probation. ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Sentencing, Standard 18–3.21(f) (3d
Iowa’s provision does not limit sentencing credit to custodial settings, but
also allows credit for “commit[ment]” to the DCS “for supervision or
services under section 901B.1 at the level of sanctions which the district
department determines to be appropriate.” Iowa Code § 907.3(3).
case law in other jurisdictions is the product of different statutory
schemes. Whether defendants should only receive sentencing credit for
time spent living in “jail-like” facilities is a policy question for the
legislature. As shown by the different schemes employed by other state
That Iowa falls within a small minority allowing these
sentencing credits does not render the result here absurd.
Anderson was required to wear the electronic monitoring device
and get permission to leave his home for reasons unrelated to work. He
remained under the daily supervision of his probation officer. It is not
absurd for the Iowa legislature to provide sentencing credit for his time
spent living at home under such restrictions.
To apply the absurd
results doctrine in this case would risk substituting our judgment for
that of the legislature. We apply the statute as written.
The plain language of Iowa Code section 907.3(3) entitles Anderson
to sentencing credit for the period of time he was committed to the DCS
for electronic monitoring and home supervision.
decision of the court of appeals is vacated, and the district court order
denying credit is reversed.
We remand for entry of an order allowing
Anderson sentencing credit for the period of his electronic monitoring
and home supervision and calculating the number of days to be credited.
COURT OF APPEALS DECISION VACATED; DISTRICT COURT
JUDGMENT REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED.
All justices concur except Mansfield, J., who takes no part.