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Fuller v. State

April 28, 2010

JEFFREY JAMES FULLER, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable Scott W. Skavdahl, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Jeffrey James Fuller appeals his conviction on a charge of felony property destruction in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-201(a) (LexisNexis 2007). We will affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Mr. Fuller states his single issue as follows:

Where a tenant damages rented property and subsequently pays for its repair, can that tenant be held criminally liable under W.S. § 6-3-201 for the damage to the property he was legally possessing under the rental agreement?

FACTS

[¶3] Mr. Fuller and his wife leased a house and garage in Casper, Wyoming. After an argument with his wife, Mr. Fuller drove his pickup through the closed garage door, striking his wife‟s car inside.*fn1 He backed up his pickup and then rammed the car again, this time pushing it through the rear wall of the garage. Both the garage and the car were damaged. Mr. Fuller submitted claims to his automobile insurance company. It issued a check to the landlords in the amount of $8,265.39 as reimbursement for damages to the garage.

[¶4] Mr. Fuller was charged with the crime of property destruction and defacement for damaging the car and the garage. At the close of the prosecution‟s case, Mr. Fuller moved for acquittal, asserting that he could not be convicted for damaging the car he owned or the garage he leased. The district court granted the motion as it related to his wife‟s car because the State failed to prove who owned it. The district court denied the motion as it related to the garage on the basis that, despite Mr. Fuller‟s lease of the property, the State had offered sufficient evidence that the landlords owned the garage. The jury convicted Mr. Fuller, and after sentencing, he filed this appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶5] To resolve this case, we must interpret Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-3-201(a).

Statutory interpretation presents a question of law which we review de novo. Qwest Corp. v. State ex rel. Dept. of Rev., 2006 WY 35, ¶ 8, 130 P.3d 507, 511 (Wyo. 2006).

When interpreting statutes, we follow an established set of guidelines. First, we determine if the statute is ambiguous or unambiguous. A statute is unambiguous if its wording is such that reasonable persons are able to agree as to its meaning with consistency and predictability. Unless another meaning is clearly intended, words and phrases shall be taken in their ordinary and usual sense. Conversely, a statute is ambiguous only if it is found to be vague or uncertain and subject to varying interpretations.

BP America Prod. Co. v. Department of Revenue, 2006 WY 27, ¶ 20, 130 P.3d 438, 464 (Wyo. 2006), quoting State Dept. of Revenue v. Powder River Coal Co., 2004 WY 54, ¶ 5, 90 P.3d 1158, 1160 (Wyo. 2004). If a statute is clear and unambiguous, we give effect to the plain language of the statute. State ex rel. Wyo. Dept. of ...


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