Summary of Decision September 17, 2013
Justice Davis delivered the opinion for the Court. Reversed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Case Name: CHRISTOPHER D. BALDERSON v. THE STATE OF WYOMING
Docket Number: S-12-0267
Appeal from the District Court of Park County the Honorable Steven R. Cranfill, Judge
Representing Appellant: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel; Wyoming Public Defender Program
Representing Appellee: Gregory A. Phillips, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Theodore R. Racines, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Christyne Martens, Assistant Attorney General
Date of Decision: September 17, 2013
Facts: After a day of jury trial, Appellant Christopher D. Balderson pled no contest to one felony count of aggravated assault and battery and one count of misdemeanor battery. Before taking his plea, the district court reminded him of the explanation of his constitutional rights given at arraignment, but failed to advise him of the potential loss of firearm rights, and any impact that loss might have on employment in occupations that require the use of a firearm, as required by Wyoming Statute § 7-11-507. Balderson claims that he should be permitted to withdraw his plea because he was not properly advised. He also contends that several other errors occurred during the change of plea and sentencing hearing.
Issues: Appellant summarizes the issues in this case as follows:Did the trial court commit reversible error by failing to advise Mr. Balderson of his rights as required by W.S. § 7-11-507? Did the trial court err by violating W.R.Cr.P. 11 and W.R.Cr.P.  to the extent that Mr. Balderson was denied due process of law? We find the first issue to be dispositive, and therefore decline to address the second.
Holdings: The State urges us to adopt a rule that would not require firearms advisements for defendants with prior convictions which disqualify them from possessing firearms under federal law. However, we cannot read an exception that the legislature has not enacted into the statute, and instead hold that § 7-11-507 applies to all defendants facing a charge which may under federal law result in loss of firearms rights and employment requiring possession of a firearm. The district court’s failure to advise Balderson as required by statute requires us to set aside the judgment of conviction and remand to that court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We need not address Balderson’s other claims of error during the change of plea hearing, as we have decided that he may withdraw his no contest plea if he wishes. If he decides to plead guilty or no contest rather than go to trial after remand, a new plea will have to be taken. We presume that the district court will comply with W.R.Cr.P. 11 and 32 and § 7-11-507 if that occurs. The district court failed to advise Balderson of the potential loss of his firearms rights under federal law as required by § 7-11-507, as well as the impact that might have on employment. We therefore reverse his conviction and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court
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Thursday, September 19, 2013
Summary of Decision September 17, 2013