Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 159

Summary of Decision issued December 31, 2008

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

Case Name: Walters v. State

Citation: 2008 WY 159

Docket Number: S-08-0037

Original Proceeding, Petition for Writ of Review, District Court of Laramie County, the Honorable Peter G. Arnold, Judge.

Representing Walters: R. Michael Vang, Brown & Hiser, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.

Representing State: Bruce A. Salzburg, Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; Robin Sessions Cooley, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Facts/Discussion: Walters entered a conditional guilty plea to a second offense of driving while under the influence of alcohol. She appealed to the district court, which affirmed the Judgment and Sentence. Walters petitioned the Court for a Writ of Review which was granted.

Conditional guilty pleas are governed by W.R.Cr.P. 11(a)(2). It imposes several requirements including that parties must make a reservation of the right to appeal a specific issue in writing. It is undisputed that the parties did not make a reservation of the right to appeal in writing. The record does not sufficiently demonstrate that Walters intended to preserve the right to appeal the specific issues she raised on appeal. The other requirements of the rule – consent of the State and approval of the court – are mandatory. In the instant case, all the issues presented are not dispositive, and there is no indication in the trial court record regarding the specific issue or issues that were preserved for appeal.
The Court’s main basis for its decision to reject the plea for noncompliance with the Rule was that two of the three issues raised on appeal were not dispositive. Walters contended that the circuit court inappropriately ruled that evidence of her performance on field sobriety tests and the portable breath test were admissible. Even if she were to prevail, the case would not be fully resolved because the State could still introduce the statements of Walters and the results of the alcohol sensor test administered at the jail. Because no trial occurred, there was no record of how the evidence would be introduced, how it would be addressed by counsel or whether any other evidence of guilt would be introduced. The third issue is dispositive. She contended the initial stop violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art. 1, § 4 of the Wyoming Constitution. If Walters were to prevail on that issue, all evidence obtained as a result of the illegal traffic stop would have to be suppressed. The Court noted this was a situation similar to Bundy. The question being whether the two non-dispositive issues taint the entire constitutional plea, or whether the Court might separate the single dispositive issue and resolve it. Like the Bundy court, the Court concluded the entire plea was invalid.

Conclusion: The Court found that Walters did not enter a valid conditional guilty plea pursuant to W.R.Cr.P. 11(a)(2). On remand, Walters may choose to enter another conditional guilty plea – with the consent of the State and the approval of the court – reserving only dispositive issues. Alternatively, she may enter an unconditional guilty plea or proceed to trial.

Reversed, remanded.

J. Burke delivered the decision.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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