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Farnsworth v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

November 20, 2017

NATHANIEL VANCE FARNSWORTH, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable John R. Perry, Judge.

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General

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

          DAVIS, Justice.

         [¶1] Nathaniel Vance Farnsworth appeals his felony conviction for taking a controlled substance into a jail.[1] For the reasons set forth in Barrera v. State, 2017 WY 123, 403 P.3d 1025 (Wyo. 2017), and those set forth below, we affirm.

         ISSUES

         [¶2] We restate the issues Farnsworth presents as follows:

1. Did the district court properly conclude that Farnsworth violated Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-208 when he took a controlled substance into the county jail after being arrested?
2. Did the district court or the State violate Farnsworth's Fifth Amendment rights?

         FACTS

         [¶3] On January 16, 2016, a Campbell County deputy sheriff stopped the vehicle Farnsworth was driving because a "blinker" on the trailer he was pulling was not working. The deputy discovered that Farnsworth had an outstanding warrant for failure to appear, arrested him and transported him to the Campbell County Detention Center. Upon arrival, officers escorted Farnsworth into the facility and, referring him to a sign posted on the door stating that it is a felony to bring drugs or alcohol into the facility, asked him whether he had any illegal substances on his person. According to Deputy Sheriff Kristen Antle, Farnsworth's response was to the effect of "no, I don't think so, I don't know." As they passed a second sign stating that it was a felony to bring a controlled substance into the jail, Deputy Antle told Farnsworth that if he had drugs in his possession and informed the officers then, he would not be charged with a felony. According to Deputy Antle, Farnsworth indicated "no I don't" and "I don't think I have anything on me." The officers escorted Farnsworth into the booking area. The detention officer patted him down and found two plastic zip-lock baggies containing a white powdery substance in Farnsworth's pants pocket. The substance tested presumptively positive as methamphetamine.

         [¶4] Deputy Antle arrested Farnsworth for taking a controlled substance into the jail in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-208 (LexisNexis 2017). That section provides in pertinent part: "Except as authorized by a person in charge, a person commits a felony . . . if that person takes or passes any controlled substance or intoxicating liquor into a jail[.]" Farnsworth filed a motion to dismiss the charge, arguing that he did not voluntarily take a controlled substance into the jail, and that while § 6-5-208 is a general intent crime, its commission still requires a voluntary act. He asserted that he told the officers he did not know whether he had methamphetamine in his pocket and was prevented from looking because he was handcuffed. He cited a 2011 decision letter in a case from Goshen County, Wyoming, in which the district judge concluded on similar facts that § 6-5-208 prohibits only voluntarily taking a controlled substance into a jail, not voluntarily possessing a controlled substance. Finding that the defendant in that case could not have acted voluntarily because he was under arrest, the district court in that case granted his motion to dismiss the charge.

         [¶5] In its response to Farnsworth's motion, the State argued that Farnsworth acted voluntarily when he took methamphetamine into the jail, and asked the court to deny the motion. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court in this case denied the motion, finding that even though Farnsworth's physical presence at the jail was not voluntary, his act of concealing a controlled substance was.

         [¶6] In the meantime, the parties entered into a conditional plea agreement, pursuant to which Farnsworth agreed to plead no contest to the charge of taking a controlled substance into the jail while reserving his right to seek review of any adverse ruling on his motion to dismiss the felony charge. The district court entered judgment against Farnsworth and imposed a two to three-year sentence on the felony charge, which it suspended in favor of three years of supervised probation. Farnsworth appeals from the judgment.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         [¶7] When reviewing motions to dismiss, we defer to the district court's findings of fact if they are not clearly erroneous, and we review any conclusions of law de novo. Hopson v. State, 2006 WY 32, ¶ 21, 130 P.3d 494, 500 (Wyo. 2006). Statutory interpretation is a question of law, which we consider de novo. Bear Cloud v. State, 2013 WY 18, ¶ 14, 294 P.3d 36, 40 (Wyo. 2013). Issues arising under the constitution are also questions of law that we review de novo. Bush v. State, 2008 WY 108, ¶ 48, 193 P.3d 203, 214 (Wyo. 2008).

         DISCUSSION

         1. Propriety of the district court's denial of the motion to dismiss

         [¶8] Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-208 states in pertinent part that "[e]xcept as authorized by a person in charge, a person commits a felony . . . if that person takes or passes any controlled substance or intoxicating liquor into a jail[.]" Farnsworth contends that the statute requires intent on the part of the offender to bring a controlled substance into a jail. He argues that the statute is not violated when a person possessing a controlled substance without the intent to bring it into a jail is arrested and ...


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