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Christopher Wardell Jones v. the State of Wyoming

August 3, 2011

CHRISTOPHER WARDELL JONES, APPELLANT (DEFENDANT),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County The Honorable W. Thomas Sullins, Judge

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Appellant, Christopher Wardell Jones, pled guilty to a third battery against a household member. He appeals the district court's Judgment and Sentence, contending that Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(f)(ii), which prescribes the punishment for that crime, is unconstitutionally vague. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Appellant presents the following issue:

Is W.S. § 6-2-501(f)(ii) void and unconstitutionally ambiguous as it is uncertain and susceptible to more than one meaning?

FACTS

[¶3] On January 18, 2010, Appellant, his girlfriend, and the couple's daughter were driving to a friend's house. On the way, Appellant and his girlfriend began arguing. Appellant's girlfriend pulled the vehicle over and demanded that Appellant get out of the car. He refused. Appellant's girlfriend then exited the vehicle and removed her daughter from her car seat. Appellant grabbed his girlfriend by the hair, but she pulled away and fled with the child into a convenience store. She told the clerk to call the police and hid in the bathroom. The police officer who responded to the call found a significant amount of hair on the rear floorboard of the car. Appellant was located several hours later and attempted to evade the arresting officer before being apprehended and arrested.

[¶4] Appellant was charged with one count of battery, third offense against a household member in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(b) and 6-2-501(f)(ii), and one count of unlawfully and knowingly obstructing, impeding, or interfering with a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-204(a). The charging documents alleged that Appellant's prior battery convictions had been entered in 2001 and 2002. After initially pleading not guilty to both charges, Appellant changed his plea to guilty on the battery offense and, pursuant to a plea agreement, the State dismissed the charge of interference with a peace officer. At the change of plea hearing, the court advised Appellant that he was pleading to a third battery and instructed that the crime was a felony punishable by imprisonment of not more than five years. Appellant acknowledged that he was pleading guilty to his third battery against a household member and asserted that he understood the maximum statutory penalties. Appellant was sentenced to a prison term of four to five years, but the sentence was suspended in favor of four years of supervised probation. This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶5] Appellant challenges the constitutionality of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(f)(ii). We review constitutional issues de novo. Giles v. State, 2004 WY 101, ¶ 10, 96 P.3d 1027, 1030 (Wyo. 2004). As we have previously stated, "there is a strong presumption in favor of the constitutionality of a statute, with all doubt resolved in its favor." Id. To the extent that our review requires that we interpret Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(f)(ii), our review is de novo. Harvey v. State, 2011 WY 72, ¶ 6, 250 P.3d 167, 170 (Wyo. 2011).

DISCUSSION

[¶6] As noted above, Appellant pled guilty to a third battery against a household member in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-501(b) and 6-2-501(f)(ii). Wyo. Stat. Ann. § ...


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