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Grant v. United States

August 12, 1999

GREGORY GRANT, APPELLANT,
v.
UNITED STATES, APPELLEE.



Before Steadman, Farrell and Reid, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Steadman, Associate Judge

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Gregory E. Mize, Trial Judge)

Submitted May 4, 1999

Decided August 12, 1999

Gregory Grant appeals two criminal contempt convictions for violating conditions of his pretrial release that he refrain from all illegal drug use and submit to drug testing twice a week. Grant challenges the sufficiency of proof of criminal contempt, arguing that there was no evidence that his actions caused an obstruction of the orderly administration of Justice or were "willful disobedience" of a court order. Grant also argues that because of his heroin addiction, he did not willfully violate the conditions of his release. We find that Grant misconceives the elements of proof required for conviction of criminal contempt for violating a condition of pretrial release under D.C. Code § 23-1329 (1999 Supp.), which only requires proof that a "person has intentionally violated a condition of his release." We also hold that addiction does not constitute a defense to the charge of contempt based upon violating a condition of pretrial release not to use illegal drugs.

I.

On June 21, 1995, the grand jury filed an indictment charging Grant with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of D.C. Code § 33-541(a)(1) (1998). Grant was arraigned on this charge on August 8, 1995 and released pending trial on his personal recognizance with conditions, including that he refrain from illegal drug use and submit to drug testing twice a week.

On June 17, 1996, the Honorable Gregory E. Mize held a show cause hearing as to why Grant should not be held in contempt as a result of a positive drug test and his failure to report for any other drug tests. At the hearing, Grant asserted that his violations of his conditions of release were not willful because of his drug addiction, he had been accepted into a drug treatment program but space was not yet available, and there was no reason to appear for drug tests because he knew he would test positive. The court found Grant in criminal contempt for violating the conditions of his release and sentenced him to thirty days in jail. *fn1

On October 9, 1996, Judge Mize held a second show cause hearing as to why Grant should not be held in contempt for subsequent violations of his conditions of release. Grant was again found in criminal contempt for violating the conditions of his release and sentenced to forty-five days' incarceration. The execution of the sentence was suspended for all but time served up to the time needed to enter a "detox" program, where he was to remain for twenty-eight days. Grant also was placed on six months' probation. After completion of the twenty-eight day detox program, Grant was required to participate in the SYMBAS program, *fn2 continue to refrain from using illegal drugs, and submit to drug testing twice a week. After Grant had completed the detox program, the trial court revoked Grant's probation on December 17, 1996, for failing to appear for drug tests and restored the balance of his forty-five day sentence.

II.

Grant appeals his June 17, 1996 and October 9, 1996 contempt convictions. Grant challenges the sufficiency of proof of his convictions, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that his actions resulted in "an obstruction of the orderly administration of Justice" or were a "willful disobedience" of a court order. The basis of Grant's assertion that there is insufficient evidence of "willful disobedience" is his contention that his heroin addiction compelled him to violate the conditions of his release, thereby precluding a finding that his conduct was willful. The government argues that the standard for criminal contempt under D.C. Code ยง 23-1329(c) only requires proof that Grant intentionally violated the conditions of his release and does not include a requirement that Grant be shown to have ...


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