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Balderson v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

September 17, 2013

Christopher D. BALDERSON, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).

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.

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

Page 810

DAVIS, Justice.

[¶ 1] 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.

[¶ 2] 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. We therefore set Balderson's conviction aside and remand with instructions that his original not guilty plea be reinstated, or that he be allowed to plead anew.

ISSUES

[¶ 3] Appellant summarizes the issues in this case as follows:

I. Did the trial court commit reversible error by failing to advise Mr. Balderson of his rights as required by W.S. § 7-11-507?
II. Did the trial court err by violating W.R.Cr.P. 11 and W.R.Cr.P. [32] 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.

FACTS

[¶ 4] Appellant was charged in Park County with two felony counts of aggravated assault and battery under Wyoming Statute § 6-2-502(a)(i) and (ii), as well as two counts of misdemeanor battery in violation of Wyoming Statute § 6-2-501(b). The probable cause affidavit supporting the information alleged that Balderson attacked another patron at a bar in Powell without provocation. He was also accused of using a bar stool to strike another customer, and then of kicking the man in the face when he was on the floor, abetted by other " Maryland boys," [1] who had accompanied him to the bar. The incident was captured on the bar's video surveillance system.

[¶ 5] Balderson pled not guilty to all charges. The district judge advised him of his constitutional rights as required by W.R.Cr.P. 11(b), and Balderson indicated that he understood them. The advisement did not include an explanation of the effect of a felony conviction on the right to own or possess a firearm or the effect of that loss on employment.

[¶ 6] Balderson was appointed counsel, but soon discharged his public defender. He tried to defend himself for a time, but ultimately proceeded to trial ...


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