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People ex rel. D.C.

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Seventh Division

February 21, 2019

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, In the Interest of D.C., Juvenile-Appellant.

          Mesa County District Court No. 15JD243 Honorable Thomas M. Deister, Judge

          Philip J. Weiser, Attorney General, Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee

          Megan A. Ring, Colorado State Public Defender, Ryann S. Hardman, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Juvenile-Appellant

          OPINION

          DUNN, JUDGE

         ¶ 1 D.C. and E.L. were committed to the Division of Youth Corrections (DYC). During their DYC science class, D.C. exposed one of his testicles to E.L. E.L. reported the incident, and the prosecution filed a delinquency petition, alleging that D.C. committed an act that, if committed by an adult, would constitute public indecency. After a bench trial, the juvenile court adjudicated D.C. delinquent.

         ¶ 2 D.C. appeals, contending that insufficient evidence supported the adjudication. We disagree and therefore affirm.

         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         ¶ 3 D.C. argues the prosecution failed to establish that the DYC classroom, where D.C. exposed his testicle, was a "public place" under the public indecency statute, § 18-7-301(1), C.R.S. 2018. We are persuaded the evidence was sufficient to support the adjudication. We, however, come to this conclusion not because the classroom was a public place (an issue we don't reach) but because D.C. exposed himself where members of the public were reasonably likely to see it.

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 4 We review challenges to the sufficiency of evidence de novo. People in Interest of G.B., 2018 COA 77, ¶ 13. In doing so, we must determine whether the evidence, when viewed as a whole and in the light most favorable to the prosecution, is substantial and sufficient to support a conclusion by a rational fact finder that the juvenile committed the act beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. We give the prosecution the benefit of every reasonable inference that might fairly be drawn from the evidence. People v. Perez, 2016 CO 12, ¶ 32.

         ¶ 5 We likewise interpret the public indecency statute de novo. See People v. Halbert, 2013 COA 95, ¶ 11. We give the statutory words their plain and ordinary meanings, and, if the statute is unambiguous, we apply it as written. Id.

         B. Public Indecency

         ¶ 6 As relevant here, a person commits public indecency by knowingly exposing his genitals to the view of another under circumstances that are likely to cause affront or alarm "in a public place or [in a place] where the conduct may reasonably be expected to be viewed by members of the public." § 18-7-301(1)(e). The statute therefore identifies two different ways to commit the crime of public indecency - exposing oneself "in a public place" or exposing oneself in a place where members of the public "may reasonably be expected" to view the exposure. See id.; see also Willhite v. Rodriguez-Cera, 2012 CO 29, ¶ 18 ("[T]he use of the disjunctive 'or' reflects a choice of equally acceptable alternatives."); cf. Friend v. People, 2018 CO 90, ¶¶ 18-19 (Where a criminal statute sets forth different ways to commit a crime, separated by the disjunctive "or," it "prescribes a single crime" that "can be committed in alternate ways.").

         ¶ 7 Responding to D.C.'s motion for judgment of acquittal at trial, the prosecution argued that it had presented sufficient evidence establishing that the DYC classroom was a "public place" or that the exposure occurred in a place "where the conduct might reasonably ha[ve] been expected to be viewed by members of the public."[1] The juvenile court recognized that DYC residents, teachers, and staff are "members of the public," but ...


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