United States v. William Hobbs

The Facts

Appellee (Hobbs) was brought into Criminal division of the Superior court as an adult under the automatic transfer exception. He was charged with several crimes, including “assault with intent to murder” under D.C. Code § 22-503 (1989).

Procedural History

The appellate (U.S.) court reversed the trial court’s judgment dismissing the indictment against defendant and remanded the case.


Before his/her 18th birthday a delinquent must, as a rule, be accorded non-criminal treatment in the Family Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Two basic exceptions to this general rule are judicial and automatic transfer. Judicial transfer: Transfer of jurisdiction over a juvenile (who is at least 15 years old) from the Family Division to the Criminal Division for prosecution as an adult can only be ordered if a judge determines, after a hearing, that there are no reasonable prospects for rehabilitating the child before his majority. Automatic transfer: a 16 or 17-year-old juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult if he/she has been charged by the U.S. Attorney with murder, forcible rape, burglary in the first degree, robbery while armed, or assault with intent to commit any such offense.

In the discretion of the U.S. Attorney, a 16 or 17-year-old juvenile who is accused for crime of assault with the intent to commit murder can be prosecuted in the Criminal Division of the Superior Court of the D.C. as an adult defendant [D.C. Code Ann. § 16-2301(3)(A), 1989].

The D.C. Code contains separate provisions for four kinds of assault with descending degrees of severity: (1) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-501, Assault with intent to kill, rob, rape, or poison (15 years maximum); (2) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-502, Assault with intent to commit mayhem or with a dangerous weapon (10 years); (3) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-503, Assault with intent to commit any other offense (5 years); (4) D.C. Code Ann. § 22-504, Simple Assault (1 year).

The Issue

(a) Whether treatment of the perpetrator as an adult did have reasonable ground and (b) whether decision of the Superior Court of D.C. to indict against defendant for assault with intent to murder under D.C. Code Ann. §22-503 was well grounded.

The Holding/Reasoning

Assault with intent to kill and assault with the intent to commit murder involve different malicious intent which may eventually overlap. The D.C. Court of Appeals construes D.C. Code Ann. § 22-503 to include the offense of assault with intent to murder. Wording of the statute overtly indicates Congress’ intention to authorize criminal prosecution of certain juveniles as adults only in case of assault perpetrated with a malicious intent to kill. “The legislature’s use of the term “murder” in D.C. Code Ann. § 16-2301(3)(A) is more than mere semantics: a person could be convicted of assault with intent to kill under D.C. Code Ann. § 22-501, even though the state of mind at the time of the crime was not sufficient to constitute murder”.

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