Submitted February 11, 2016
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CF2-10147-14) (Hon. Milton C. Lee, Trial Judge) (
Vincent A. Jankoski was on the brief for appellant.
Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Acting United States Attorney at the
time the briefs were filed, with whom Elizabeth Trosman,
Elizabeth H. Danello, Laura Crane, Lindsey Merikas, and
Kristina L. Ament, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on
the brief, for appellee.
Beckwith and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Belson, Senior
Beckwith, Associate Judge.
James Campbell challenges the sufficiency of the
government's evidence that he violated the District of
Columbia's open-container law when he was found sleeping
in a parked vehicle on a grassy median between two church
parking lots with a half-empty bottle of vodka in close
reach. Mr. Campbell contends that the evidence was
insufficient to establish that he possessed an open container
of alcohol (POCA) in "[a] vehicle in or upon any street,
alley, park, or parking area, " D.C. Code § 25-1001
(a)(2) (2012 Repl.),  because the meaning of "parking
area" did not encompass the location in which he was
arrested. We agree that Mr. Campbell's vehicle was not in
a "parking area" within the meaning of the statute
and reverse his conviction for POCA.
Campbell has waived his argument-based on the same statutory
issue underlying his sufficiency claim-that the trial court
should have suppressed the fruits of the search incident to
his unlawful arrest for POCA, we affirm his convictions for
first-degree theft and unauthorized use of a vehicle. With
respect to Mr. Campbell's conviction for receiving stolen
property, the government has filed in this court a consent
motion seeking to vacate that conviction, and we now grant
to the government's evidence at trial, at around 3 a.m.
on June 9, 2014, Metropolitan Police Department Officer
George Poor came across a black Infiniti sedan parked on an
unmarked grassy median between two parking lots just south of
Mount Carmel Baptist Church at Third and I Streets,
Northwest. Officer Poor testified that the vehicle was not
running, its lights were off, and a towel was draped in place
of a missing right rear window. Because the area was known
for prostitution and because the vehicle's missing window
and its location on the grass between two parking lots struck
him as "odd" and "unusual, " Officer Poor
proceeded to investigate.
Poor testified that he pulled his cruiser behind the
Infiniti, turned on his emergency lights, and approached the
vehicle on foot with a flashlight. From outside the
driver's door, Officer Poor saw a man-whom he identified
at trial as Mr. Campbell-reclined in the driver's seat,
semiconscious or unconscious, and a half-empty bottle of
Absolut vodka in the vehicle's center console. The
officer rapped on the driver's window several times,
roused Mr. Campbell, and had him step out of the vehicle.
According to Officer Poor, when he asked Mr. Campbell whether
he had been drinking, Mr. Campbell responded that he had had
"a couple of sips." Officer Poor testified that he
also recovered a screwdriver that was wedged between the
driver's seat and the center console, but the car's
ignition was intact.
Poor placed Mr. Campbell under arrest for possessing an open
container of alcohol in a vehicle. In a search incident to
that arrest, Officer Poor found two watches and the key to
the Infiniti in Mr. Campbell's pocket and also found
paperwork in the vehicle indicating that Mr. Campbell was not
the car's owner. Another search of Mr. Campbell after he
was taken to the First District police station uncovered four
shards of glass in his pocket that, according to another
officer's testimony, appeared to match the broken glass
found inside the vehicle. Jose Zavala, the actual owner of
the Infiniti-who was contacted by police and then came to the
church-informed Officer Poor that the Infiniti was his car,
that it had been stolen earlier that evening, and that the
two watches also belonged to him. Mr. Zavala testified that
he did not keep any alcohol or a screwdriver in the Infiniti.
close of the government's case, the trial court denied
Mr. Campbell's suppression motion, which the parties had
agreed would be resolved on the basis of the testimony at
trial, and also denied his motion for judgment of acquittal.
The jury began its deliberations on the afternoon of November
4, 2014, and on the following afternoon delivered its
verdicts acquitting Mr. Campbell of destruction of property
(as to the vehicle) and second-degree theft and receiving
stolen property (as to the watches), but convicting him of
first-degree theft and receiving stolen property (as to the
vehicle), unauthorized use of a vehicle, and POCA.
appeal, Mr. Campbell challenges (among other
things) the sufficiency of the evidence
supporting his conviction for possessing an open container of
alcohol. He contends, in particular, that his conduct does
not fall within the POCA statute's prohibition on
possession of an open container of alcohol in "[a]
vehicle in or upon any street, alley, park, or parking area,
" D.C. Code § 25-1001 (a)(2), because the POCA
statute does not, in his view, prohibit possession of an open
container of alcohol on private property and because the only
evidence on the subject at trial indicated that the area
between two church parking lots where he was found and
arrested was private land. The government counters that Mr.
Campbell did not preserve the sufficiency challenge to his
POCA conviction ...