Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (T6986-02) (Hon. Stephen G. Milliken, Trial Judge).
Before Schwelb and Ruiz, Associate Judges, and Nebeker, Senior Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nebeker, Senior Judge
Submitted September 9, 2004
Alebachew K. Belay was convicted, after a bench trial, of one count of failing to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk (D.C. Code § 50-2201.28 (2001)). He now contends that his conviction should be vacated because the complaining witness, a bicyclist, was not a "pedestrian" under D.C. Code § 50-2201.28. He further contends that the court's imposed sentence, prohibiting his operation of a vehicle as a condition of probation, was illegal. Being unpersuaded by these arguments, we affirm.
On May 19, 2002, the complaining witness, Cara Corcoran, her brother, P.J., and her father, Patrick, were riding their bicycles along the Potomac River. Around 2:00 p.m. they stopped at a marked crosswalk, preparing to cross Parkway Drive, S.W., and waited for traffic to clear. Once the roadway appeared clear, Patrick Corcoran started into the crosswalk, followed by Cara. When he arrived on the other side of the street, he heard an impact and turned to see that Cara had been struck by a taxicab.
At the time that Cara was struck by the taxicab, she was in the crosswalk, nearly to the median in the middle of the roadway. She was struck directly by the cab, hit the windshield with her head, and was then thrown 10-12 feet into the air before landing in the road face down. She was taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital for treatment.
A jogger who witnessed the incident, although testifying for the defense, corroborated the fact that Cara was in the crosswalk at the time she was struck by the taxicab. Belay testifying on his own behalf denied that Cara was in the crosswalk and stated that Cara struck the cab on the passenger side. He further testified that he did not see her in the roadway prior to the collision.
The trial court, crediting the testimony of the eyewitness jogger, concluded that Cara had been in the crosswalk at the time of the collision. It further concluded, reading the D.C. Municipal Regulations in conjunction with D.C. Code § 50-2201.28, that Cara, although on a bicycle, was a pedestrian within the meaning of the statute. Accordingly, he found Belay guilty of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
D.C. Code § 50-2201.28 (a) (2001) states "[w]hen official traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection." The term pedestrian is not defined within this statute. Thus, to clarify whether Cara, a bicyclist hit in the crosswalk, would be covered under the meaning of the statute, the trial court, at the request of the government, looked to 18 DCMR §1201.11 (2003), a traffic regulation, which states that "[a] person propelling a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or while crossing a roadway in a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, except that the bicyclist must yield to pedestrians on the sidewalk or crosswalk." The government contends that reading the statute and the regulation together, establish that although on a bicycle, Cara was owed the same right of a pedestrian in the crosswalk; the right to be yielded to by an approaching motor vehicle. Therefore, it further argues that the criminal statute making it a crime to fail to yield to a pedestrian or to collide with a pedestrian in a crosswalk, applies equally to a failure to yield to a bicyclist in a crosswalk.
Belay challenges the trial court's use of the municipal regulations to impart meaning to the criminal statute, arguing that the principle of "strict construction" should apply to this situation and that strict construction of the language of this statute require a finding that a pedestrian, defined ...