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Iowa Sex Offender Special Sentence Provisions Interpreted: Time-Served Credit, but Not Earned-Time, Reduces Revocation Term

The Iowa Supreme Court held on May 4, 2012 that earned-time credit for good behavior accelerates the completion of a ten-year special sentence but does not reduce a release revocation term. The Court further held that time served in jail pending a release revocation hearing (jail-time) must be applied to reduce the revocation term.

In 2005, the Iowa legislature created sex offender “special sentence” provisions. “In addition to any other punishment provided by law,” sex offenders convicted of a misdemeanor or class D felony must be sentenced to a ten-year “special sentence.” Those convicted of a class C felony or greater offense receive a “special sentence” of life. The offender begins serving the special sentence “as if on parole.”

However, the Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) can impose “a revocation of release,” in which case, “unlike revocation of traditional parole, the offender is not incarcerated for his remaining sentence. Instead, these special sentence statutes prescribe maximum ‘revocation of release’ periods” of two years for the first revocation and five years for each subsequent revocation.

In October 2007, an Iowa district court convicted Kris Kolzow of several sex offenses and sentenced him to a seven-year suspended prison term. He was placed on probation and the court also imposed a 10-year special sentence, to commence upon completion of his probation.

Kolzow was discharged from probation on May 21, 2009. He began his special sentence eight days later, but was arrested for a parole violation on July 28, 2009.

Kolzow was held in jail or a work release center from July 28, 2009 until his January 11, 2010 parole revocation hearing. His parole was revoked and he was sentenced to a two-year revocation period to be served at the IDOC’s Iowa Medical Classification Center.

The IDOC applied earned-time credit to reduce Kolzow’s ten-year special sentence but did not apply earned-time or jail-time credit to reduce his two-year release revocation term.

Kolzow challenged the IDOC’s refusal to apply earned-time and jail-time credit. The district court agreed that Kolzow was entitled to have his revocation term reduced by both earned-time and jail-time credit but the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed, holding that neither type of credit applied “because the ‘revocation of release’ period was not a ‘sentence.’”

The Iowa Supreme Court affirmed with respect to earned-time. Noting that the interpretation of the statute was a matter of first impression, the Court held that “the operative statutory language unambiguously provides that earned-time credit must be applied to accelerate the end of the ten-year special sentence in IDOC custody, rather than to shorten the revocation of release periods within that special sentence.”

The Supreme Court reversed as to the jail-time credits, however, concluding that it “cannot construe the plain statutory language in a manner that permits express maximum periods of incarceration to be exceeded,” as the denial of jail-time credit would allow the state to confine offenders beyond the maximum period allowed by law.

The decision of the Court of Appeals was vacated, and the district court’s judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part. See: Kolzow v. Iowa, 813 N.W.2d 731 (Iowa 2012).

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Related legal case

Kolzow v. Iowa