THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF PETERSBURG Joseph M. Teefey,
Richard G. White, Jr., Assistant Public Defender (Shaun R.
Huband, Deputy Public Defender, on brief), for appellant.
M. Uberman, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring,
Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Chafin, Russell and Senior Judge Clements
Argued at Richmond, Virginia
G. RUSSELL, JR. JUDGE
Darnell Butcher, appellant, was convicted of misdemeanor
failure to stop at the scene of an accident in violation of
Code § 46.2-894. On appeal, he contends that the trial
court erred by convicting him because "the evidence was
insufficient to prove [he] failed to stop and failed to
exchange information." For the reasons that follow, we
well-settled principles of appellate review, we consider the
evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to
the Commonwealth, the prevailing party below."
Bolden v. Commonwealth, 275 Va. 144, 148, 654 S.E.2d
584, 586 (2008). So viewed, the evidence establishes that, on
March 14, 2015, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Alicia Pegram
(Alicia) arrived home from work and saw appellant
standing outside of his car in her driveway. The two had been
dating "[o]ff and on for about a year and a half or two
years," until Alicia ended their relationship on March
13, 2015. Alicia had not invited appellant to her house, so
rather than confront appellant, she drove past her house and
appellant followed her. Alicia drove at speeds of sixty to
seventy miles per hour on roads with a speed limit of
twenty-five to thirty-five miles per hour to "get
away" from appellant.
caught up with Alicia and swerved his car into the front
driver's side of her vehicle. Alicia ran off the road and
stopped in a neighbor's yard near a tree. Appellant got
out of his car and approached Alicia's car and began
yelling and banging on her car window "like he was in a
rage." Alicia called 911, and the dispatcher advised her
to stay where she was. Because Alicia did not feel safe, she
ignored the dispatcher's advice and left the scene in an
attempt to get away from appellant. Initially, appellant
followed her, but eventually he gave up the pursuit.
Pegram (Gary), Alicia's father, testified that he owned
the car Alicia was driving on March 14. He stated that
appellant called him that morning between 1:30 and 2:00 a.m.
When asked what appellant said during that conversation, Gary
said appellant offered to pay for half of the damage that had
been done to Gary's vehicle. Gary asked appellant
"who was going to pay for the other half, and
[appellant] couldn't answer that so the conversation
didn't go any further than that." Appellant
attempted to speak to Gary about appellant's relationship
with Alicia, but Gary "advised [appellant he] didn't
want to hear about a relationship between him and [his]
daughter." Significantly, having been asked to relay
what appellant said in the conversation, Gary did not testify
that appellant had provided his address, driver's license
number, or vehicle registration number.
Compere of the Petersburg Police Department also testified.
Shortly after 1:00 a.m. on the day of the accident, he
"received a call to respond to headquarters for a hit
and run." When he reported to headquarters, he met with
Alicia and Gary. After speaking with them, Compere went to
the accident scene to further his investigation.
any attempt by appellant to provide his address, driver's
license number, or vehicle registration number, Compere
testified that he received no call from appellant, that no
note containing such information had been left at the
accident scene, and that he "did not have that
information" when he sought warrants against appellant
at 5:52 that morning.
presented no evidence and moved to strike all of the charges
on multiple grounds. Pertinent to his ultimate conviction for
misdemeanor hit and run, appellant argued that the evidence
established that he had stopped and attempted to communicate
with Alicia and that the evidence did not exclude the
possibility that he had contacted some law enforcement
official other than Compere and reported the information
required by Code § 46.2-894. Appellant also argued that,
given his prior relationship with Alicia, she knew his
identity, and therefore, the purpose of the communication
provisions of Code § 46.2-894 was satisfied.
trial court denied the motion to strike and convicted
appellant of the offenses. The trial court found that
appellant did not communicate the necessary information to
any of the parties listed in the statute.
appeal followed. Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence for his conviction on the same grounds he asserted
in his motion to strike in the trial court.
Standard of review
reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence,
this Court considers the evidence in the light most favorable
to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party below, and reverses
the judgment of the trial court only when its decision is
plainly wrong or without evidence to support it.
Farhoumand v. Commonwealth, 288 Va. 338, 351, 764
S.E.2d 95, 102 (2014). "[I]f there is evidence to
support the conviction, the reviewing court is not permitted
to substitute its judgment, even if its view of the evidence
might differ from the conclusions reached by the finder of
fact at trial." Linnon v. Commonwealth, 287 Va.
92, 98, 752 S.E.2d 822, 826 (2014) (quoting Lawlor v.
Commonwealth, 285 Va. 187, 224, 738 S.E.2d 847, 868
(2013)). This standard requires us to "discard the
evidence of the accused in conflict with that of the
Commonwealth, and regard as true all the credible evidence
favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences to be
drawn therefrom." Parks v. Commonwealth, 221
Va. 492, 498, 270 S.E.2d 755, 759 (1980) (emphasis and
internal quotation marks omitted). However, to the extent
"an appeal presents the question whether the facts
proved, and the legitimate inferences drawn from them, fall
within the language of a statute, we must construe statutory
language to answer the question. That function presents a
pure question of law which we consider de novo on
appeal." Smith v. Commonwealth, 282 Va. 449,
453-54, 718 S.E.2d 452, 454 (2011).
Requirements of Code § 46.2-894
§ 46.2-894 states, ...