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06/24/91 UNITED STATES v. WILLIAM M. HOBBS

June 24, 1991

UNITED STATES, APPELLANT,
v.
WILLIAM M. HOBBS, APPELLEE



Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia; Hon. Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., Trial Judge

Rogers, Chief Judge, and Terry and Steadman, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rogers

In Logan v. United States, 483 A.2d 664 (D.C. 1984), the court was called upon to interpret D.C. Code § 16-2301 (3)(A) (1989), which provides that a sixteen or seventeen-year-old juvenile who is charged with the crime of "assault with the intent to commit. . . murder" may, in the discretion of the United States Attorney, be prosecuted in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court as an adult defendant. The United States Attorney in Logan sought to bring an adult prosecution against a juvenile by charging him, pursuant to D.C. Code § 16-2301 (3)(A), with assault with intent to kill, D.C. Code § 22-501. The court concluded, however, that the plain language of § 16-2301 (3)(A) authorized adult prosecution only for assault with intent to commit murder, a crime distinct from assault with intent to kill. 483 A.2d at 676. The Logan court therefore held that the United States Attorney could not prosecute a juvenile as an adult by charging him under § 22-501.

This case is the sequel to Logan. In an effort to prosecute appellee, age 17, as an adult, the United States Attorney charged him with two counts of "assault with intent to murder" under D.C. Code § 22-503. Appellee moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that "no such offense currently exists in the District of Columbia." The trial Judge agreed that "a logical reading of the controlling statutory provisions and their hierarchical order" demonstrated that the legislature did not intend assault with intent to murder to be punishable under § 22-503. The government appeals, maintaining that the trial Judge erroneously construed the statutory scheme.

The Logan court noted that "there is no way -- short of engaging in a wholesale redrafting of the District's statutes on criminal assaults -- to avoid the possibility of anomalous results or to implement fully the congressional intent underlying § 16-2301 (3)(A)." 483 A.2d at 666. We follow the Logan court in its Conclusion (in dictum) that the crime of assault with intent to commit murder "could be charged under D.C. Code § 22-503." Id. at 675. Therefore, we reverse the trial Judge's decision dismissing the indictment.

I.

Ordinarily "a person accused of committing a delinquent act before his eighteenth birthday -- which act would be criminal if committed by an adult -- is accorded non-criminal treatment in the Family Division of the Superior Court." Id. at 667. There are, however, two basic exceptions to this general rule: judicial transfer and automatic transfer. *fn1 For judicial transfer, the Corporation Counsel files a motion with the Family Division requesting transfer of jurisdiction over a juvenile (who is at least fifteen years old) from the Family Division to the Criminal Division for prosecution as an adult. D.C. Code § 16-2307 (a) (1989). Such a transfer can only be ordered if a Judge determines, after a hearing, that there are no "reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the child before his majority." Id. § 16-2307 (d).

The second exception to juvenile treatment, automatic transfer, allows a sixteen or seventeen-year-old to be prosecuted as an adult if the child has been charged by the United States Attorney with "murder, forcible rape, burglary in the first degree, robbery while armed, or assault with intent to commit any such offense . . . ." Id. § 16-3201 (3)(A). Unlike the first exception, "the decision whether to bring criminal charges and to prosecute such persons as adults is left to the discretion of the United States Attorney." Logan, supra, 483 A.2d at 667. Appellee was brought into adult court under the automatic transfer exception pursuant to the indictment charging him with several crimes, including "assault with intent to murder" under D.C. Code § 22-503 (1989).

II.

To understand the context for this appeal, it is necessary to consider the court's previous analysis in Logan, supra, of the relationship between the automatic transfer exception (D.C. Code § 16-2301 (3)(A)) and the substantive statutes creating criminal offenses involving assaults. Section 16-2301 (3)(A) authorizes adult prosecution of juveniles charged with "assault with intent to murder." The problem with this provision, as the court discussed in Logan, is that there is no obvious statutory basis for the crime of assault with intent to murder. The D.C. Code contains separate provisions for

"four kinds of assault with descending degrees of severity: [1] D.C. Code § 22-501, Assault with intent to kill, rob, rape, or poison (15 years maximum); [2] D.C. Code § 22-502, Assault with intent to commit mayhem or with a dangerous weapon (10 years); [3] D.C. Code § 22-503, Assault with intent to commit any other offense (5 years); [4] D.C. Code § 22-504, Simple Assault (1 year)."

Ingram v. United States, 122 U.S. App. D.C. 334, 337, 353 F.2d 872, 875 (1965). The government sought in Logan to prosecute a juvenile as an adult by charging him with "assault with intent to kill" under D.C. Code § 22-501, and the Logan court concluded that such a prosecution was unauthorized.

The Logan court contrasted two different interpretations of § 16-2301 (3)(A). On the one hand, the government interpreted the provision as authorizing adult prosecution of a juvenile who has been charged with assault with intent to kill. "The government based its reading of § 16-2301 (3)(A) on a belief that the distinction between the words murder and kill in the two statues is simply a matter of semantics that should not be permitted to cloud congressional intent." Logan, supra, 483 A.2d at 670; id. at 677 (Nebeker, J., Dissenting). On the other hand, the defendant in Logan argued that "only those juveniles actually charged [by the U.S. Attorney] with assault with intent to commit murder" could be automatically transferred to adult court, and that "such a crime could be charged under D.C. Code § 22-503." Id. at 675.

The Logan court noted that both interpretations were problematic. The government's view did not "recognize that the element of malice, the state of mind required for an act of murder, cannot be equated with specific intent to kill." Id. at 671. The legislature's use of the term "murder" in § 16-2301 (3)(A), therefore, was more than mere semantics: "a person could be convicted of assault with intent to kill under § 22-501, even though the state of mind at the time of the crime was not sufficient to constitute murder." Id. at 672. *fn2 The defendant's interpretation had problems of its own. It "assumes that Congress intended to place assault with intent to commit murder -- ...


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