Friday, June 24, 2011

Summary of Decision June 24, 2011

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

Case Name: Bruyette v. State

Citation: 2011 WY 99

Docket Number: S-10-0250


Appeal from the District Court of Sheridan County, Honorable John G. Fenn, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): Diane Lozano, State Public Defender, PDP; Tina Olson, Appellate Counsel; Eric M. Alden, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Katrina J. Brown, Student Intern.

Date of Decision: June 24, 2011

Facts: Appellant was charged with felony possession of marijuana. At trial, he sought to introduce evidence that he obtained the marijuana in California with a prescription for medical marijuana. The district court granted the State’s in limine motion to exclude evidence relating to a medical marijuana defense and instructed the jury that possession of medical marijuana was not a defense to the crime charged. The jury convicted Appellant of felony possession of marijuana. Appellant appeals, claiming the district court denied him his constitutional right to present his defense.

Issues: Whether Appellant was denied his right to present a defense to the jury guaranteed by Art. 1, § 10 of the Wyoming Constitution and the United States Constitution.

Holdings: A criminal defendant has the right to present evidence in his own defense. That right, however, is not unlimited. The Wyoming Rules of Evidence provide that for evidence to be admissible, it must be relevant. Relevant evidence is evidence having a “tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence. Even relevant evidence may be excluded, however, “if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.”

Here, the district court concluded a California physician’s recommendation to use marijuana for medical purposes (if such a recommendation existed) was not a valid prescription or medical practitioner’s order within the meaning of Wyo. Stat. 35-7-1031(c) and was not, therefore, a valid defense to a charge in Wyoming for possessing marijuana. A defendant charged with possession of marijuana under § 35-7-1031(c) is not exempt from criminal liability in Wyoming even if he legitimately obtained a medical marijuana prescription or physician’s order under another state’s law. The possession of marijuana, even for medical purposes, is illegal; therefore, it would be illegal under Wyoming law for a physician to prescribe or order, in any sense, the possession of marijuana. It is, likewise, illegal under Wyoming law for a patient, or anyone else, to possess marijuana even if he obtained it on the basis of a physician prescription or recommendation. The question of whether or not Appellant had a medical marijuana card from a California physician was irrelevant. Because it was irrelevant, the district court properly excluded it.


C.J. Kite delivered the opinion for the court.

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