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Iowa high court: redo restitution


September 6, 2019— In State v. Moore, the Iowa Supreme Court again reversed and remanded a criminal conviction for resentencing based on a failure to adequately determine a defendant’s ability to pay restitution but did not disturb a district court and, in turn, a court of appeals decision affirming the sentence itself.

In Moore, the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence for child endangerment resulting in serious injury. The Court of Appeals recounted the facts as follows: Moore was caring for his girlfriend’s son while his girlfriend was at work. The girlfriend called Moore to check on her son, and Moore reported the child had fallen in the bathroom but was “okay now.” According to the Court of Appeals, when the girlfriend arrived home, Moore was cradling her son, who was allegedly “fighting to breathe” with his eyes “rolled back into his head” and his arms and legs “stiff like a board like he couldn’t move them.” Health care workers transported the child to University of Iowa where health care workers testified they observed chapped lips that “looked almost like a corrosive burn,” dried blood near the child’s ear, and extensive bruising all over his body and extensive internal organ damage and head trauma “requiring extensive surgery and a lengthy healing process.” The nurses advised the boy could die.

A jury convicted Moore of child endangerment causing serious injury. The trial court judge sentenced Moore to indeterminate prison sentence of ten years. Moore appealed claiming, among other things, that the jury needed an instruction to explain the standard of “reasonable degree of scientific certainty,” which has been held to support a guilty verdict when the State presents medical expert testimony.

Rejecting this “reasonable degree of medical certainty” argument and other claims, the appeals court focused on inappropriately imposed restitution in the form of jail fees and asserted the district court failed to assess Moore’s ability to pay. The Court of Appeals affirmed the restitution order, stating the restitution statute allowed him a remedy to challenge the restitution.

The Iowa Supreme Court accepted the case on further review, affirmed the conviction and sentence, but reversed and remanded only on the issue of restitution, holding that the case had to go back for a restitution hearing based on the Albright opinion, decided while this case was pending and holding that district court’s must determine a defendant’s ability to pay certain kinds of restitution, like jail fees and court costs, before imposing them.

NOTE: David A. Cmelik Law PLC had no involvement in the Moore case.

If you or a loved one have been arrested for a criminal offense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, or other Iowa community, contact David A. Cmelik Law PLC for a free initial consult. However, remember that a blog is not legal advice and that sending unsolicited information to a lawyer over the Internet does not establish an attorney-client relationship.

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