Before Schwelb, Farrell, and Ruiz, Associate Judges.
March 2, 2000: This opinion is vacated. Petition for rehearing is granted.
Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(Hon. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, Trial Judge)
Opinion for the court by Associate Judge Schwelb.
Concurring opinion by Associate Judge Farrell
Concurring opinion by Associate Judge Ruiz
Schwelb, Associate Judge: Baltazar Rivas and Jose M. Melgar were convicted by a jury of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute it (PWID), in violation of D.C. Code § 33-541 (a) (1998). On appeal, they challenge a number of rulings by the trial Judge. Perceiving no reversible error, we affirm.
On February 11, 1996, at approximately 1:00 a.m., officers of the United States Secret Service observed a car which was stopped in the middle of a two-lane street and blocking traffic. Melgar was in the driver's seat, while Rivas was the front seat passenger. Two other men were in the rear seat.
After the car moved to the side of the road, the officers issued a citation to Melgar. While doing so, they observed an open, forty-ounce container of alcohol inside the vehicle. *fn1 When one of the officers leaned into the car to retrieve the open container, he observed two clear sandwich bags in the front console, between the emergency brake and the passenger seat. One of the bags contained twelve rocks of crack cocaine; the other bag contained six rocks. Officers also recovered $236 in cash from Melgar's person. Both defendants were arrested and ultimately convicted of PWID. *fn2
Both defendants filed pretrial motions to suppress the cocaine which police recovered from the car. The trial Judge denied the motions, concluding that the vehicle was properly stopped for a traffic violation, that the open container of alcohol was in plain view, and that the officers properly recovered the cocaine, which was visible to the naked eye. *fn3 The Judge held that after the contents of the sandwich bag had tested positive for cocaine, the ...