Criminal Law Blog

2019: The (Early) Year In Review (Part 1)


The PDS Criminal Law Blog has been on hiatus since the beginning of 2019. During this time, the editors have been re-evaluating how best to serve its readers while summarizing the criminal jurisprudence of the D.C. Court of Appeals. Readers and editors agree that the blog would be more useful if its posts were shorter and relied more on readers to read opinions and understand the facts presented and arguments raised in each case.

During the blog's hiatus, the D.C. Court of Appeals has decided some 26 criminal cases. In the interest of updating practitioners and testing a shorter blog format, the blog will post brief synopses of the Court's 2019 criminal opinions, grouped by subject area, in a "year-in-review" format. Part 1 of this update follows. (Cases will appear in this update multiple times if their holdings span multiple subject areas):


In re R.O., 18-FS-760 (decided January 17, 2019) –

  • Holding 1:  The DYRS order revoking R.O.’s community placement and placing him in a secure facility was not subject to direct review by the DCCA, but would be subject to appellate review on the merits where a Superior Court judge erroneously dismissed R.O.’s Administrative Procedure Act petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Slip Op. at 2-13. 
  • Holding 2: Revocation of R.O.’s community placement was unconstitutional where DYRS relied in part on an arrest that was not supported by probable cause. Id. at 13-14.

Jeffers v. U.S., 19-CO-35 (decided May 23, 2019) –

  • Holding: To establish a “substantial probability of guilt,” giving rise to a presumption that no conditions of pre-trial release will reasonably assure community safety, “the United States must show at a minimum that it is more likely than not that the defendant would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt at trial of an offense permitting detention under [D.C. Code] § 23-1325.” Slip Op. at 9 (emphasis added).
  • Of Note: The court took no position on whether a substantial probability requires “strong likelihood” or “reasonable certainty” of success at trial because the government’s proof did not meet the “more likely than not” standard. Id. at 11.


Posey v. U.S., 16-CF-1126 (decided February 21, 2019) –

  • Holding: Appellant’s unprovoked flight from uniformed officers in a high crime area did not provide reasonable articulable suspicion to stop him for committing a robbery reported in that area, where (a) the officers had only a vague suspect descriptions, (b) the record did not show precisely when the robbery occurred, and (c) nothing about appellant or his group’s conduct before or during the flight suggested involvement in the robbery—“[A] nondescript individual distinguishing himself from an equally nondescript crowd by running away from officers unprovoked does not, without more, provide a reasonable basis for suspecting that individual of being involved in criminal activity and subjecting him or her to an intrusive stop and police search.” Slip Op. at 14.

Hooks v. U.S., 17-CF-1382 (decided May 30, 2019) –

  • Holding 1: Appellant, who was sitting in a lawn chair on a walkway in front of an apartment building, was “seized” for Fourth Amendment purposes when, after driving past the building, four uniformed officers stopped their car, reversed, got out of the car, walked directly up to appellant, and told him to “get up.” Slip Op. at 9. 
  • Holding 2: Police lacked reasonable articulable suspicion to believe appellant had committed the crime of “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” a sidewalk or entryway because his conduct could not have conceivably met the second requirement of the statute—that he resume blocking the walkway after being told to disperse. Id. at 13-16

McGlenn v. U.S., 18-CF-103 (decided July 11, 2019) –

  • Holding: The “community-caretaking doctrine” applies to “temporary seizures of persons who are out in public” and justified seizing appellant pending the arrival of an ambulance, where appellant’s “frightening” behavior caused his mother “to run to a neighbor’s house [to] call the police”; “there was reason to believe [appellant] was under the influence of PCP, a drug known to cause sudden bursts of aggressive and violent behavior”; appellant “physically resisted” officers upon their arrival; and appellant “showed signs of [anger,] incoherence[,] and disorientation.” Slip Op. at 12, 17.
  • Of Note: The DCCA “express[es] no view as to the applicability of the community-caretaking doctrine to searches of a home.” Id. at 12.


Walker v. U.S., 14-CF-839 (decided February 21, 2019) –

  • Holding 1: Appellants’ claim that an inculpatory witness statement was coerced, involuntary, and unreliable, raised for the first time in appellants’ motions for new trial, was forfeited and subject to plain error review on appeal because appellants failed to raise it in a pretrial motion to suppress. Slip Op. at 11-14.
  • Holding 2: The trial court did not plainly err by admitting a witness statement later ruled by the DCCA to have been coerced by police because neither the Supreme Court nor the DCCA had recognized the defendant’s right to exclude a statement coerced from a witness, as opposed the defendant him- or herself.  Id. at 14-16. Even assuming there was a right to exclude coerced witness statements, the court would not find that it had been violated on the record presented. Id. at 16.
  • Holding 3: Neither the DCCA opinion finding coercion nor the evidence that the statement was coerced qualified as “newly discovered evidence” under Rule 33. Id. at 16 n.5.

Johnson v. U.S., 17-CF-1117 (decided May 9, 2019) –

  • Holding: Appellant was not in “custody” for Miranda purposes where detectives questioned her at her home for about half an hour; the tone of the interview was conversational, not menacing; detectives never threatened arrest; appellant was neither handcuffed nor physically restrained; detectives’ weapons were concealed; and neither detective was standing guard at the door. Slip Op. at 6-7.


Green v. U.S., 16-CM-187 (June 13, 2019) – In a simple assault case, where appellant cross-examined his complainant using parts of her 911 call, none of which was admitted into evidence, and the government responded on re-direct by moving the entire 911 call into evidence –

  • Holding 1: The trial court erred and violated the Confrontation Clause by denying appellant the opportunity to recross-examine the complainant on new, material information contained in the call. Slip Op. at 5-10
  • Holding 2: The trial court’s error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt where it asked, specifically to hear 911 call and it helped bolster the complainant’s credibility in a case that came down to her credibility. Id. at 10-12.
  • Of Note: The 911 call was not admissible under the rule of completeness because no part of it had been admitted into evidence up to that point. Id. at 10 n.12.