United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
Rafiq Robinson was arrested for-though not convicted
of-violating the District of Columbia's prohibition on
possessing an open container of alcohol in certain public
spaces, D.C. Code § 25-1001 (“the POCA
law”). Plaintiff filed the present lawsuit on behalf of
himself and two potential classes of plaintiffs, challenging
the POCA law as unconstitutional on both procedural and
substantive due process grounds. As to his procedural due
process claim, Plaintiff primarily contends that the POCA law
fails to pass constitutional muster because it lacks a state
of mind element, thereby inviting arbitrary and
discriminatory enforcement. With respect to his substantive
due process claim, Plaintiff asserts that the POCA law bears
no rational relation to the public welfare and therefore
unconstitutionally infringes on his “freedom of
the court is Defendant Government of the District of
Columbia's Motion to Dismiss. After thorough
consideration of Plaintiff's Complaint, the parties'
pleadings, and the applicable law, the court grants
Defendant's Motion and dismisses Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint with prejudice.
officer of the Metropolitan Police Department stopped
Plaintiff Rafiq Robinson on October 24, 2015, in the alley
alongside 104 Kennedy Street N.W., Washington, D.C.
See Am. Compl., ECF No. 11 [hereinafter Compl.],
¶¶ 50-51. Upon searching Plaintiff's person, the
officer discovered a “bottle of Taaka Genuine Vodka in
the right rear pocket of [Plaintiff's] pants.”
Id. ¶ 52. The bottle was “half
full” and “the top was on the bottle.”
Id. ¶ 53. The officer smelled the bottle,
determined it contained alcohol, and arrested Plaintiff for
possessing an open container of alcohol in public, in
violation of D.C. Code § 25-1001(a) (“the POCA
law”), as well as another, unspecified offense. Compl.
¶¶ 54, 59. The POCA law provides that “no
person in the District shall drink an alcoholic beverage or
possess in an open container an alcoholic beverage in or upon
any of the following places: (1) a street, alley, park,
sidewalk, or parking area . . . .” D.C. Code §
25-1001(a)(1). The D.C. Code defines an “open
container” as “a bottle, can, or other container
that is open or from which the top, cap, cork, seal, or tab
seal has at some time been removed.” Id.
§ 25-101(35). Plaintiff alleges that, at the time of his
arrest, he was not visibly intoxicated, the bottle had not
been in plain view, he had not drank from the bottle while in
public, and he had not demonstrated any intent to drink from
the bottle while in public. Compl. ¶¶ 55-58.
Plaintiff was booked and fingerprinted at the police station
before being released on citation. Id. ¶ 60.
November 6, 2015, the Office of the Attorney General formally
charged Plaintiff with violating the POCA law. Id.
¶ 61. After Plaintiff's appearance, arraignment, and
entry of a not-guilty plea, the District of Columbia Superior
Court set a trial date for December 17, 2015, until which
time Plaintiff was on pre-trial release. Id.
¶¶ 62-63. Plaintiff appeared for trial, but the
Superior Court dismissed the case when the government
announced it was not prepared to proceed. Id.
filed suit in this court on January 4, 2016, seeking relief
against the District of Columbia under Section 1983, 42
U.S.C. § 1983, on the theory that the POCA law violates
the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment in two
respects. See Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of the
City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978) (allowing for
municipal liability under Section 1983 if the government
enacted and enforced an unconstitutional law against the
plaintiff). First, he asserts that the POCA law infringes the
Fifth Amendment's guarantee of procedural due process
because its lack of a state of mind, or mens rea, element
invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Compl.
¶¶ 69-70, 86(a)-(b). Second, Plaintiff claims the
POCA law violates the substantive component of the Due
Process Clause by infringing on his protected liberty
interest in “freedom of action” without adequate
justification. See Id. ¶¶ 70-71, 86(c).
Plaintiff seeks to certify and represent two classes of
individuals: one class of those who have been
arrested for POCA violations and one class of those
who have been prosecuted for POCA violations.
Id. ¶¶ 78-79. On behalf of himself and the
members of each class, Plaintiff seeks injunctive,
declaratory, and monetary relief. Id. ¶¶
moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in full
for failure to state a cognizable claim. See
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 12 [hereinafter
Def.'s Mot.]. That motion is now ripe for review.
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible when
“the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. The
factual allegations in the complaint need not be
“detailed”; however, the Federal Rules demand
more than “an unadorned,
Id. “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id.
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must determine
whether the plaintiff's complaint meets this requirement.
In so doing, the court accepts the plaintiff's factual
allegations as true and “construe[s] the complaint
‘in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the
benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Hettinga v. United States, 677
F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979), aff'd en banc, 628 F.2d 199 (1980)).
The court need not accept as true, however, either “a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ”
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or
“inferences . . . unsupported by the facts set out in
the complaint, ” Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns
Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). If the facts
as alleged fail to establish that a plaintiff has stated a
claim upon which relief can be granted, then the court must
grant the defendant's Rule 12(b)(6) motion and dismiss
the complaint. See Am. Chemistry Council, Inc. v. U.S.
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 922 F.Supp.2d
56, 61 (D.D.C. 2013).
court begins with Plaintiff's procedural due process
claim and then turns to his substantive due process claim.
For the reasons explained below, the court concludes that the
POCA law violates neither component of the Due Process Clause
of the Fifth Amendment.
Procedural Due Process
preliminary matter, the court notes that Plaintiff brings a
facial challenge, rather than an as-applied challenge, to the
POCA law. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot.
to Dismiss, ECF No. 13 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], at
4-6. Traditionally, to succeed on a facial vagueness
challenge, the plaintiff had to show “the enactment
[wa]s impermissibly vague in all of its applications.”
U.S. Telecom Ass'n v. FCC, 825 F.3d 674, 735
(D.C. Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (internal quotation
mark omitted). That standard rested on the principle that
“[a] plaintiff who engages in some conduct that is
clearly proscribed cannot complain of the vagueness of the
law as applied to the conduct of others.” Village
of Hoffman Estates v. Flipside, Hoffman Estates, Inc.,
455 U.S. 486, 495 (1982). Recently, however, the Supreme
Court cast doubt on the “in all of its