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City of Casper v. Simonson

Supreme Court of Wyoming

July 28, 2017

CITY OF CASPER, WYOMING, A WYOMING MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, Petitioner,
v.
SHAINA SIMONSON, Respondent.

         Original Proceeding Petition for Writ of Review District Court of Natrona County Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge

          Gary G. Way, Assistant City Attorney, Casper, Wyoming Representing Petitioner

          Dallas J. Laird, Attorney at Law, Casper, Wyoming Representing Respondent

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] Shaina Simonson claimed in a district court appeal that the probationary portion of a sentence imposed by the municipal court in Casper was illegal. The district court agreed, and the City of Casper challenged that ruling by filing a petition for a writ of review.[1] We grant the writ of review, and we affirm the district court.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] The City poses a single question:

Does a municipal court have the power to impose a term of probation on a defendant if the ordinance governing the offense committed provides for punishment only by a fine?

         We instructed the parties to also brief the issue of whether the City should be granted, in light of City of Sheridan v. Cadle, 24 Wyo. 293, 157 P. 892 (1916), and City of Laramie v. Mengel, 671 P.2d 340 (Wyo. 1983), a writ of review.

         FACTS

         [¶3] At approximately 1:00 a.m. on October 31, 2015, two Casper police officers responded to a complaint of loud music being played at what appeared to be a party at a residence on South Elk Street. After investigation, the officers arrested the twenty-year-old host of the festivities, whose mother was not home, and issued citations to ten other individuals between the ages of seventeen and twenty for violating Casper Municipal Code § 5.08.370(A) and (B).[2] Ms. Simonson, who was eighteen at the time, was one of those individuals.

         [¶4] Although her case was set for a bench trial, she eventually decided to enter a no contest plea[3] to the charge.[4] At the combined change of plea and sentencing hearing, the municipal court twice described the maximum penalty faced by Simonson as a $750 fine. Shortly thereafter the city attorney recommended what he characterized as the standard penalty for a first-time offender of the minor in possession ordinance. That consisted of a $750 fine plus $10 court costs, the suspension of all but $160 of that amount, and six months of unsupervised probation.

         [¶5] Simonson's attorney responded that, except for the fine, such a sentence would be illegal because the City had authorized nothing but a fine for the misdemeanor offense of being a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage. He directed the court to the provisions of Casper Municipal Code § 1.28.010, which established the penalties available for acts made unlawful by the Code, including the one for which Simonson was convicted.

         [¶6] Subsection B of that ordinance provides:

Any misdemeanor committed in the city shall be punishable only by a fine of not more than seven hundred fifty dollars, to which may be added court costs as set by the municipal court, but not to exceed ten dollars for all violations, except as otherwise provided.

Casper Municipal Code 1.28.010(B) (emphasis added).[5] Subsection C provides for incarceration, but only with respect to repeat offenders, and then only with respect to enumerated offenses. Being a minor in possession of alcohol is not one of those offenses.

         [¶7] Only subsection E of the penalty ordinance has any application to that offense, but it deals only ...


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