Thursday, August 16, 2007

SUmmary 2007 WY 131

Summary of Decision issued August 16, 2007

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses "Universal Citation" and was given an "official" citation when issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. You will note that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you need to provide a pinpoint citation, the universal portion of the citation will use that paragraph number. The pinpoint citation in the P.3d portion should include the reporter page number. If you need assistance, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Holcomb v. State

Citation: 2007 WY 131

Docket Number: 06-288

Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County, the Honorable Dan R. Price, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Nicholas H. Carter and Kurt A. Infanger of Carter Law Office, PC, Gillette, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Patrick J. Crank, Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Paul S. Rehurek, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion or erred as a matter of law when prior to sentencing it denied Appellant’s motion to withdraw his plea.

Facts/Discussion: This is an appeal from the sentence imposed upon the Appellant after he pled guilty to felony stalking pursuant to a plea agreement.

Standard of Review: Decisions concerning whether a trial court properly denied a motion for withdrawal of a guilty plea are determined under an abuse of discretion standard of review. The Court looks to the seven factors identified in Frame v. State as pertinent in determining whether the district court properly exercised its discretion. A plea agreement is a contract between the State and the Appellant and is subject to the general principles of contract law. The Court reviews de novo whether the agreement has been fulfilled.
The simple facts of the case demand reversal upon the failure of the plea agreement underlying the plea. There was no agreement that the Appellant would receive deferred prosecution but there was an agreement that in exchange for Appellant’s guilty plea, the district court would consider deferred prosecution. The district court never considered deferred prosecution because it was prevented from doing so by a mutual mistake of the parties: neither the State nor the Appellant knew that Appellant was ineligible for deferred prosecution. The proper remedy on the collapse of the plea agreement was to allow Appellant to withdraw is plea.

Holding: Unknown to either the State or the Appellant, the agreement that resulted in the Appellant’s entry of a guilty plea to felony stalking was impossible to perform, ab initio. Therefore, the district court erred in allowing the State to retain the benefit of its bargain – the guilty plea – without bearing the burden – consideration of deferred prosecution. The motion to allow withdrawal of the guilty plea should have been granted.


J. Voigt delivered the decision.

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