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Savoy v. United States

October 1, 2009


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (F4461-04) (Hon. Robert R. Rigsby, Trial Judge).

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

Argued May 21, 2008

Before KRAMER and THOMSPON, Associate Judges, and STEADMAN, Senior Judge.

After a jury trial, appellant Ronald Savoy was convicted on July 20, 2005, of, inter alia, misdemeanor false impersonation of a police officer under D.C. Code § 22-1406 (2001), and possession of a prohibited weapon (blackjack) under D.C. Code § 22-4514(a) (2001). He appeals those convictions on the grounds that the trial court's jury instructions were erroneous and that the trial court erred in failing to suppress a statement appellant made prior to being read his Miranda rights. We affirm.

I. Facts

On July 13, 2004, Metropolitan Police Department Officer James Boteler and his partner Officer David Chumbley were in a marked patrol car driven by Officer Boteler. As they were traveling on Atlantic Street facing Livingston Road, they heard sirens. They did not initially see anything, but they subsequently saw appellant operating a blue Crown Victoria with lights flashing in the windows and in the grill. As the car went by, the officers heard a siren coming from it and a loud air horn. Appellant passed the officers. The officers then activated the lights and sirens of their own patrol car and pulled behind appellant. Appellant then proceeded to run two red lights and two stop signs while traveling at 50 to 60 miles per hour in a 25 mile per hour zone for five or six blocks.

Initially, the officers followed appellant because they thought that appellant was a police officer and that they would be backing him up on a call, but they soon realized that there was no call outstanding. Moreover, the car had Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) plates, which meant that the vehicle was a personal vehicle, not a police vehicle. Although the officers still believed that appellant might be an off-duty police officer responding to a personal emergency, they decided to conduct a regular traffic stop because it had become clear to them that they were not assisting another officer on a call.

At first, appellant motioned out of his car window with a waving motion, as though he wanted the officers to pull up next to him.The officers, however, in keeping with regular traffic stop procedure, positioned their vehicle behind appellant's. Officer Boteler approached appellant's car on the driver's side, while Officer Chumbley approached on the passenger side. Still believing that appellant might be an off-duty police officer, Officer Boteler asked appellant what department he was with. Appellant answered, "You know me. I'm with Metro P.D." While he said this, appellant was wearing a badge around his neck on a chain like Officer Boteler's neck chain, but appellant had his right hand over the badge so that it was partially obscured. Officer Boteler told appellant to move his hand. When appellant did so, Officer Boteler saw that the badge stated "Big Mack Security Chief" with the number "001" on it. The officers then had appellant get out of the vehicle.

As appellant left the vehicle, the officers noted an open beer can in the center console of the car. Also, when appellant turned around after getting out of the car, Officer Boteler noticed in appellant's right rear pocket "the handle portion of what is known as a slapjack, which is basically a piece of leather with a large piece of lead at the end." Officer Boteler testified that a slapjack is an illegal weapon formerly used by the police in the 1950s and 60s. Officer Boteler described appellant's slapjack as a "blackjack, four or five inches, [with] five or six inches worth of handle" and stated that he saw "the bulge on the bottom half of the slapjack." Because the slapjack could be used as a weapon, the officers took it from appellant and asked him to step around and sit on the curb while they conducted the rest of the stop.

Officer Boteler then leaned into the car and noted that the beer can was cold and the yellow liquid inside the can smelled like alcohol. While he was doing this, he looked above the car's visor and saw a black plastic laminated parking permit that had the Metropolitan Police Department insignia on it and said "Police, official business." Officer Boteler recognized the permit as being the same kind that he had in his personal vehicle for when he needed to park in front of the courthouse to attend court.

Officer Boteler then noticed in the car's driver's side map pocket a Metropolitan Police Department ticket book. He flipped through the ticket book and saw tickets written up for reasons that appeared fraudulent, including a purported parking ticket stating, "Warning. Don't park so close. Officer Friendly this time. Have a nice day." But one of the tickets appeared to be legitimate and was signed by Metropolitan Police Department Sergeant Urell Washington, who worked in the same district as Officer Boteler.

Officer Boteler took the parking placard and ticket book out of the car and asked appellant where he had obtained these police items. Appellant answered immediately, "Sergeant Washington gave them to me." But after a second or two, appellant contradicted himself and said that Sergeant Washington must have left them in his car. The officers then searched the rest of the car, including the backseat and the trunk.*fn1 When the officers were handcuffing appellant, he asked if the officers could "cut [him] a break" because he was Sgt. Washington's "boy." Appellant was then arrested.At trial he presented no evidence.

During the jury's voir dire, the trial court had referred to the prohibited weapon only as a "blackjack."Testimony during the trial referred to the weapon as either a "blackjack" or a "slapjack," but "slapjack"was used most frequently. The court's jury instructions referred to the object only as a "slapjack." No objection was made regarding the terminology change, however, and appellant's counsel ...

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