77 A.3d 964 (D.C. 2013), 11-CF-1484, Hammond v. United States

Docket Nº:11-CF-1484.
Citation:77 A.3d 964
Opinion Judge:WASHINGTON, Chief Judge:
Party Name:Jamar B. HAMMOND, Appellant, v. UNITED STATES, Appellee.
Attorney:Christine Pembroke, Washington, DC, for appellant. Ann K.H. Simon, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen R. Kolb, and Phillip A. Selden, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.
Judge Panel:Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, BECKWITH, Associate Judge, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.
Case Date:August 01, 2013
Court:Court of Appeals of Columbia District
 
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77 A.3d 964 (D.C. 2013)

Jamar B. HAMMOND, Appellant,

v.

UNITED STATES, Appellee.

No. 11-CF-1484.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District.

August 1, 2013

Submitted June 26, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Christine Pembroke, Washington, DC, for appellant.

Ann K.H. Simon, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, Chrisellen R. Kolb, and Phillip A. Selden, Assistant United States Attorneys, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, BECKWITH, Associate Judge, and NEBEKER, Senior Judge.

WASHINGTON, Chief Judge:

Appellant, Jamar B. Hammond, appeals his conviction for one count of unlawfully possessing a firearm after being convicted of a felony (" UPF" ), two counts of possessing an unregistered firearm (" UF" ), and two counts of unlawfully possessing ammunition (" UA" ). On appeal, appellant argues that his two UF convictions should be merged, as well as his two convictions for UA, and that his conviction for UPF should merge with his convictions for UF. Appellant also contends that there was insufficient evidence to establish his constructive possession of the firearms or the ammunition. Finally, appellant argues that the trial judge erred in admitting at trial the ammunition recovered from the apartment appellant shared with his wife because the government failed to call the officers who actually collected and labeled the ammunition. For the following reasons, we affirm, but remand this case with an instruction to vacate one of appellant's two UA convictions.

I. FACTS

On March 26, 2011, the police stopped a vehicle driven by appellant's mother. Appellant was seated in the front passenger seat and his wife and child were in the back seats. Appellant became very agitated and irate as the police officers approached the vehicle and, consequently, was detained in handcuffs. The officers asked appellant's mother for permission to search the trunk and she provided the police with a key to the trunk, leading appellant to become even more irate. Inside the trunk, the officers found a .22 caliber rifle and a .270 caliber rifle. Upon seeing the rifles, appellant's mother became upset and yelled at appellant, " asking him why he put the guns in there." Appellant responded, " I'm not trying to hurt no one. I'm trying to protect my wife. Those joints are not loaded."

Police later searched the apartment appellant shared with his wife and found in the bedroom dresser five rounds of .22 caliber ammunition and one round of .270 caliber ammunition in close proximity to an identification bracelet bearing appellant's name and photograph and a PEPCO bill bearing appellant's name and the address

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of the apartment. The parties stipulated that at the time of the crime, appellant had been convicted of a felony and did not have a registration certificate for either rifle.

On September 12, 2011, a jury found appellant guilty of all five firearm and ammunition charges.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Appellant's Merger Arguments

i. Merger of Two Possession of an Unregistered Firearm Convictions

Appellant argues that the UF statute is ambiguous as to whether the legislature intended the unit of prosecution to be the possession of each individual unregistered firearm or any possession, multiple or not, of an unregistered firearm. Appellant points to the language in the statute that prohibits possessing or controlling " any firearm," arguing that the lack of specificity makes it unlikely, or at least unclear, that the legislature intended possession of each individual firearm to constitute a separate violation. D.C.Code § 7-2502.01 (2001) (emphasis added). For that reason, appellant contends that under the rule of lenity, this ambiguity should be resolved in favor of reducing appellant's two convictions for possession of an unregistered firearm to one conviction. The unit of prosecution for possession of an unregistered firearm is an issue of first impression for this court.

An appellant's claim that he has been unlawfully convicted for multiple violations of a single statute is an issue of " statutory application" and " not one of Constitutional interpretation." Speaks v. United States, 959 A.2d 712, 716 (D.C.2008) (citing Ladner v. United States, 358 U.S. 169, 173, 79 S.Ct. 209, 3 L.Ed.2d 199 (1958)). We review claims involving matters of statutory interpretation de novo. Peterson v. United States, 997 A.2d 682, 683 (D.C.2010). In reviewing claims of unlawful multiple convictions of a single statute, " our role is to determine what the legislature...

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