Crebs v. State, S-20-0059

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtGRAY, Justice.
Citation474 P.3d 1136
Parties Ronald Wayne CREBS III, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
Decision Date28 October 2020
Docket NumberS-20-0059

474 P.3d 1136

Ronald Wayne CREBS III, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).

S-20-0059

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

October 28, 2020


Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, Wyoming State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel. Argument by Mr. Morgan.

Representing Appellee: Bridget Hill, Wyoming Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Deputy Attorney General; Joshua C. Eames, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Timothy P. Zintak, Assistant Attorney General. Argument by Mr. Zintak.

Before DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.

GRAY, Justice.

¶1] On October 2, 2017, Ronald Wayne Crebs III was arrested and detained in Natrona County for the October 1, 2017 theft of a Honda Civic. While he was detained in Natrona County, Fremont County filed charges against him for the theft of a Toyota Sequoia. Although Fremont County filed an Information, it did not pursue further prosecution on these charges for 481 days—during which time, Mr. Crebs was convicted in Natrona County and was serving a four to seven-year prison sentence. Fremont County did file a detainer against Mr. Crebs while he was in Natrona County custody. Mr. Crebs filed two pro se motions from prison, including a Motion to Dismiss for lack of a speedy trial.1 On September 26, 2019, Mr. Crebs, now represented by counsel, filed a second Motion to Dismiss the Fremont County charges based on speedy trial violations. After a hearing, the district court denied the motion. Mr. Crebs entered into a conditional guilty plea agreement, reserving the speedy trial issue. Mr. Crebs appeals. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] Was Mr. Crebs denied his constitutional right to speedy trial?

[474 P.3d 1141

FACTS

A. Factual Background

¶3] The facts are not in dispute. On October 1, 2017, the Casper Police Department responded to a report of a burglary at Big Dawg Auto. When the caller arrived at work, she found a pried-open door and open window. She reported the theft of a 2003 silver Honda Civic and multiple temporary vehicle registrations.

[¶4] On October 2, 2017, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office received a report of a stolen Toyota Sequoia. Officers then sighted the Toyota Sequoia in Fremont County, and, after a high-speed chase, stopped it in Natrona County. The driver, Mr. Crebs, was arrested and transported to the Natrona County Detention Center. Mr. Crebs admitted to stealing the Honda Civic and the Toyota Sequoia.

B. Procedural Background

[¶5] On October 4, 2017, Natrona County charged Mr. Crebs with burglary and wrongful taking or disposing of property related to the Honda Civic. Mr. Crebs was not able to post bond and remained in jail until his conviction and sentencing.

[¶6] On December 7, 2017, while Mr. Crebs was in jail awaiting trial in Natrona County, Fremont County2 filed an Information charging him with seven offenses connected to the theft of the Toyota Sequoia. It obtained a warrant for Mr. Crebs's arrest but did not execute the warrant. Instead, the prosecutor lodged a detainer to ensure that Mr. Crebs would not be released from jail unless Fremont County was notified and had an opportunity to execute the arrest warrant.3 Fremont County took no further action in this matter until 2019.

[¶7] After roughly eight months in jail, Mr. Crebs entered into a plea agreement on the Natrona County charges. The Natrona County district court sentenced Mr. Crebs to four to seven years in prison, with credit for 151 days served. The Judgment and Sentence was filed May 29, 2018, and Mr. Crebs was transferred to the Wyoming Medium Correctional Institution (WMCI).

[¶8] Months later, on February 4, 2019, Mr. Crebs mailed a pro se "Notice of Place of Confinement and Motion for Final Disposition" (Motion for Final Disposition) to Fremont County. This motion, filed February 11, 2019, stated that Mr. Crebs was being held at WMCI. Mr. Crebs requested a telephone hearing and asked Fremont County to proceed with its charges. Mr. Crebs also requested court-appointed counsel. After receiving no response to his Motion for Final Disposition, Mr. Crebs filed a pro se Motion to Dismiss on April 1, 2019, asserting a violation of his right to a speedy trial. One day later, Fremont County responded to the motion and an initial appearance was set for June 10, 2019.

[¶9] Mr. Crebs attended this hearing by telephone. The hearing was continued to July 17, 2019, to allow him to obtain counsel. Mr. Crebs, with counsel, appeared by phone at the July 17, 2019 hearing. At that time, he again raised his right to a speedy trial and requested that he be allowed to appear in person. The court continued the hearing to accommodate an in-person appearance and entered an order for transport.

[¶10] Following the rescheduled initial appearance on August 7, 2019, and the preliminary hearing on August 21, 2019, Mr. Crebs was bound over to district court. The district court set Mr. Crebs's video arraignment for September 12, 2019, but because of technical issues, the arraignment was continued to September 19, 2019. At the rescheduled arraignment, Mr. Crebs renewed his speedy trial claim and pleaded not guilty. Trial was set for January 13, 2020, with an expedited briefing schedule.

[¶11] Mr. Crebs filed a Motion to Dismiss on September 26, 2019, arguing violation of

[474 P.3d 1142

his right to speedy trial under the United States and Wyoming constitutions. The State responded, and the district court heard Mr. Crebs's motion on October 15, 2019. On November 15, 2019, the district court entered an order denying Mr. Crebs's Motion to Dismiss.

¶12] On January 7, 2020, Mr. Crebs pled guilty to felony theft pursuant to a conditional plea agreement. He reserved his right to appeal the issue of speedy trial. He was sentenced to three to five years imprisonment, suspended in favor of three years probation upon completion of his Natrona County sentence, with no credit for time served. Mr. Crebs timely appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶13] On appeal, Mr. Crebs argues the State violated his right to a speedy trial under the United States and Wyoming constitutions. "We examine de novo the constitutional question of whether a defendant has been denied a speedy trial in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Art. 1, § 10 of the Wyoming Constitution."4 Humphrey v. State , 2008 WY 67, ¶ 18, 185 P.3d 1236, 1243 (Wyo. 2008).

DISCUSSION

[¶14] When analyzing a constitutional speedy trial claim under the United States Constitution, we look at the four factors established by the United States Supreme Court in Barker v. Wingo : "(1) the length of the delay; (2) the reason for the delay; (3) the defendant's assertion of his right; and (4) the prejudice to the defendant." Webb v. State , 2017 WY 108, ¶ 15, 401 P.3d 914, 921–22 (Wyo. 2017) (quoting Rhodes v. State , 2015 WY 60, ¶ 17, 348 P.3d 404, 410 (Wyo. 2015) ). We conduct the Barker analysis to determine the ultimate question of "whether the delay in bringing the accused to trial was unreasonable, that is, whether it substantially impaired the right of the accused to a fair trial." Berry v. State , 2004 WY 81, ¶ 31, 93 P.3d 222, 231 (Wyo. 2004) (citation omitted). Under our analysis, "[n]o single factor is dispositive. Instead, we consider the factors together and balanced in relation to all relevant circumstances. The State has the burden to prove delays in bringing the defendant to trial are reasonable and necessary." Fairbourn v. State , 2020 WY 73, ¶ 42, 465 P.3d 413, 425 (Wyo. 2020) (quoting Mathewson v. State , 2019 WY 36, ¶ 57, 438 P.3d 189, 209 (Wyo. 2019) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted)).

A. Length of Delay

[¶15] We turn first to the length of the delay. "[T]his Court has never held that a specific length of delay is sufficient to constitute an automatic speedy trial violation." Webb , ¶ 16, 401 P.3d at 922 (citing Mascarenas v. State , 2013 WY 163, ¶ 12, 315 P.3d 656, 661 (Wyo. 2013) ). However, the length of the delay is a threshold consideration that determines whether analysis of the remaining Barker factors is necessary. Id.

[¶16] The parties contest when Mr. Crebs's speedy trial right arose. Mr. Crebs contends the relevant date is October 2, 2017, when he was arrested and charged in Natrona County for the crimes committed there. The State submits the speedy trial calculation began on

[474 P.3d 1143

December 7, 2017, when Mr. Crebs was charged with the Fremont County crimes.

[¶17] Generally, "the [constitutional] ‘speedy trial clock begins to run at the time of arrest, information, or indictment, whichever occurs first.’ " Webb , ¶ 15, 401 P.3d at 921 (quoting Rhodes , ¶ 17, 348 P.3d at 411 ). This computation includes "the periods of formal charge by a single sovereign for the same criminal act[.]" Id. (citation omitted). Once the right to speedy trial has attached, it "continues until the defendant is convicted, acquitted or a formal entry is made on the record of his case that he is no longer under indictment." Berry , ¶ 32, 93 P.3d at 231 (quoting Wayne R. LaFave et al., Criminal Procedure § 18.1(c), at 670 (3d ed. 1999) ).

[¶18] Mr. Crebs was first charged in Fremont County on December 7, 2017. The earlier Natrona County arrest was unrelated to the Fremont County charges. We find that the speedy trial clock in this case started on December 7,...

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1 practice notes
  • Cotney v. State, S-21-0111
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 1, 2022
    ...and (C). As a result, we limit our analysis to the constitutional question. Our review is de novo. Crebs v. State , 2020 WY 136, ¶ 13, 474 P.3d 1136, 1142 (Wyo. 2020) (quoting Humphrey v. State , 2008 WY 67, ¶ 18, 185 P.3d 1236, 1243 (Wyo. 2008) ). [¶19] The Sixth Amendment to the United St......
1 cases
  • Cotney v. State, S-21-0111
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 1, 2022
    ...and (C). As a result, we limit our analysis to the constitutional question. Our review is de novo. Crebs v. State , 2020 WY 136, ¶ 13, 474 P.3d 1136, 1142 (Wyo. 2020) (quoting Humphrey v. State , 2008 WY 67, ¶ 18, 185 P.3d 1236, 1243 (Wyo. 2008) ). [¶19] The Sixth Amendment to the United St......

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