Submitted September 28, 2017
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CTF-18758-13) Hon. Yvonne Williams, Trial Judge
Ranga Puttagunta was on the brief for appellant.
A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia,
Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General at the time the brief was
filed, Rosalyn C. Groce, Deputy Solicitor General, and John
D. Martorana, Assistant Attorney General, were on the brief
Blackburne-Rigsby, Chief Judge, McLeese, Associate Judge, and
Nebeker, Senior Judge.
BLACKBURNE-RIGSBY, CHIEF JUDGE
Crawford James Jr. appeals his conviction for one count of
leaving after colliding with property damage (LAC-PD) in
violation of D.C. Code § 50-2201.05c (2013
Supp.). On appeal, appellant alleges that there
was insufficient evidence to satisfy the mens rea
element of the offense, which requires that the appellant
"know or ha[ve] reason to believe that his . . .
vehicle has been in a collision." D.C. Code §
50-2201.05c (a). Because we have no basis for determining
whether the trial court's verdict properly incorporated
the mens rea element, we vacate appellant's
conviction and remand the case for the court to reweigh the
evidence and to render a new verdict.
October 15, 2013, around 10:25 p.m., appellant was attempting
to move his car out of a parallel parking space near the 1700
block of Bay Street, Southeast, Washington, D.C. At this same
time, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Officers Naples
and Barriteau were on the same block responding to a family
disturbance call when they heard a "loud crash."
Officer Naples turned around and observed a burgundy Ford
Explorer "up against the vehicle in front of it"
and stated that it looked like the Ford Explorer had
"collided" with this vehicle. He observed the
driver of the Ford Explorer, later identified as appellant,
put the vehicle in reverse, move out of the parking space,
and start driving away at about ten miles per hour.
officers chased after the Ford Explorer, which stopped
halfway down the block. Officer Naples instructed appellant
to exit the vehicle. As appellant exited the vehicle, Officer
Naples noticed that appellant's balance was unsteady and
his eyes seemed heavy and bloodshot. The officers advised
appellant that they believed he had struck a vehicle, and
Officer Naples testified that appellant "had no idea
what we were talking about[, ]" and that "[h]e
didn't know that he had collided with a vehicle."
Officer Naples also testified that he noticed an alcoholic
beverage odor coming from appellant's person, and thus,
proceeded to conduct the standard field sobriety tests.
Appellant failed the field sobriety tests and was placed
trial, the owner of the Volvo, Robert Southern, testified
that he noticed, sometime during the week of October 15,
2013, that someone had hit his car as he observed "a
white streak along the back left side rear bumper that had
not been there before." Appellant testified that he did
not hit the Volvo. The trial court found appellant guilty of
evaluating the sufficiency of the evidence, "we view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the government,
giving full play to the right of the [fact-finder] to
determine credibility, weigh the evidence, and draw
justifiable inferences of fact, and making no distinction
between direct and circumstantial evidence." Medley
v. United States, 104 A.3d 115, 127 n.16 (D.C. 2014)
(internal quotation marks omitted). "Where the
evidentiary record is sufficient to support the verdict in a
bench trial, but the findings of fact underlying the verdict
are insufficient, we therefore have deemed it appropriate to
remand for the judge to augment those findings as necessary
to clarify whether the verdict can stand." Warner v.
United States, 124 A.3d 79, 89 (D.C. 2015).
contends that there was insufficient evidence of the
requisite mens rea to find him guilty of leaving
after colliding with property damage. The statute requires
that the person operating the vehicle must "know or
ha[ve] reason to believe" that their vehicle was in an
accident. D.C. Code § 50-2201.05c (a). In ruling, the