October 14, 2014

I'll take $20 on Pump No. 2 and an Arrest for Solicitation of Prostitution in Washington, DC

fuel-pumps-at-gas-station-1154996-m.jpgIn a continuing effort to make sure there is a balance between violent crime arrests and "quality of life" arrests in Washington, DC, the police have decided to step-up efforts to arrest people for the crime of Solicitation of Prostitution.

In the past, police have targeted taxi drivers and would actually hail a cab so they could arrest the driver, even though he was legally required to stop for the potential passenger.

Let's now look a recent undercover operation by the DC police. A customer pulls up to a gas station in NE DC to fill up his car. While he is standing at the pump, a female undercover officer approaches him and asks if he wants a date.

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August 25, 2014

Welcome Back to the School: The D.C. Police are Waiting for You

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who regularly represents college students charged with simple assault, I expect that the D.C. Metropolitan Department will be ramping up their arrests this time of year.

fist1.jpgLet's talk about simple assaults in D.C. In the District of Columbia, simple assault is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. You are probably thinking that since you have never been arrested before in your entire life, there is no reason that you would be arrested now.

The problem is that the scenario that typically leads to an arrest for simple assault is not what you would expect. I typically hear from clients who went to bar or night club with a few friends. At some point in the night, someone in the club gets drunk and starts acting rude to you or someone you are with. You try to calmly and politely tell them to stop and leave you and your party alone, but the other person doesn't stop. They may even take a swing at you, throw a drink, or do something similarly assaultive.

At this point, whether you tried to defend yourself or not, a bouncer rushes over and throws you out of the club. Sometimes, they are so forceful in throwing you out that you get injured. At this point, the police show and asked what happened. They don't ask you or your friends what happened, they ask the bouncer what happened.

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June 2, 2014

On Being Charged with Domestic Violence Simple Assault in Washington, DC (Part One: The Arrest and Arraignment)

DV.jpgAs a Washington, DC domestic violence attorney, I often represent clients with a very similar story. Here is how it typically goes; you get into an argument with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse or fiancé. He or she may be upset with you and may even be intoxicated. There is a lot of screaming going on but you have not laid a hand on her/him. In fact, your domestic partner may even be the one who is hitting you. All you are trying to do is defend yourself from being hit and trying to restrain him/her. At this point it is just the two of you involved. Sometimes it is a neighbor who hears screaming and calls the cops. Other times your partner will dial 911 and the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police (MPD) officers arrive at your house or apartment.
At first you are not worried about the police because you know that you didn't assault anyone. In fact, you are actually the victim of any domestic violence. Unfortunately, that doesn't really matter. Normally an officer will stand with you and maybe ask you what happened while another officer interviews the person who called the police. The truth is, the police often don't take the time to hear both sides of the story and find out what really happened. You now find yourself sitting in the back of an MPD cruiser while your significant other is listed as the complaining witness or victim.
In the District of Columbia there is no bond on the night of the arrest. You are taken to whatever police district you happen to live in to be book and processed. You will then be transported by van to the MDP Central Block (CCB) where you will be held until the next court date. Normally this is the next day unless that day is a Sunday. After spending a night in what can only be described as a roach-infested dungeon, you will be given a very short van ride to the DC Superior Court. You are now in the U.S. Marshals' Cell Block. Here you will be asked to give a urine sample and interviewed to see if you qualify for a court-appointed lawyer.
You will then be brought up to court in handcuffs, leg irons, and a waist chain for your arraignment. Unless you have a prior record, and even if you do, you will probably be released on your own personal recognizance, told that you cannot possess a firearm, and given a date to come back to court for a status hearing.
In the next part of this blog post, I will discuss what happens at the status hearing. In the meantime, if you find yourself in this position, I strongly advise you to contact a lawyer who regularly handles domestic violence cases in Washington, DC so that you can discuss your case. Just having an open domestic violence case can have serious implications on your personal and professional life.

May 12, 2014

I Have a Permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon: Is it valid in Washington, DC?

gun4.jpgOne of the most common DC gun charges that I handle involves a client from another state who was arrested for Carrying a Pistol outside of their home or place of business. This charge used to be called Carrying a Pistol without a License (CPWL) but was recently changed. The reason for the name change probably has to do with the fact that they do not issues carry permits in the District Columbia. That includes open carry and concealed carry.

The draconian firearms laws in DC are basically that if you own any gun (pistol, rifle, and shotgun) it must be registered. Once it is registered, you may only keep it in your home or place of business. You cannot carry your gun anywhere else in the District of Columbia. If you do, it is a felony punishable but up to 5 years in federal prison on a first offense. If the gun is not registered in Washington, DC, you can also be charged with possession of an unregistered firearm (UF). As if that wasn't harsh enough, because you need to have a registered firearm to own any ammunition in DC, you can also be charged with possession of unlawful ammunition (UA) if you had any bullets in the gun or in your possession.

Please note that you do not need to have the gun with you to get arrested for UA in Washington, DC. As lawyer who regularly represents people charged with gun crimes, I have represented people for having shotgun shells in their trunk which were purchased at sporting goods store for lawful purposes.

You may be saying to yourself, as a lawful gun owner, I'm not going to set foot in Washington, DC. The problem often arises when you are driving around DC on the beltway. If you are driving through the District and get pulled over, you can get arrested for carrying a pistol and the other charges I just mentioned. This is true even if you were driving from Florida to Maryland and never had any intention of stopping in Washington, DC. What makes matters worse is that the DC Metropolitan police often use the fact that most gun owners are responsible people against them. They see the VA plates and ask if you have any weapons in the car. They know that when you got your carry permit, you were instructed to tell any officer that you have a firearm in the car. This is for everyone's safety and it makes sense. If you exercise this common sense, you will be rewarded by being placed unrest on a gun charge

There have been numerous attempts to change the law so that responsible gun owners can carry firearms in the District of Columbia, but as of now, the only people that can carry a weapon are the police, the military, and some "Special Police Officers." In case you were wondering a Special Police Officer (SPO) is essentially a private security guard that has limited arrest powers and the authority to carry a pistol on their worksite.

Being arrested on a gun charge in Washington, DC is a serious matter than can not only affect your liberty, but may lead to you not being able to own a firearm in any state. While every situation is different, if you have been charged with a gun crime in the District of Columbia, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

February 24, 2014

State v. Cabinatan - Burglary Conviction Vacated for Witness Identification Error

In criminal cases, eyewitness identification is notoriously prone to error, especially when the authorities overseeing the process fail to follow basic procedures to ensure that witnesses aren't improperly influenced.
One scenario that should always prompt an aggressive challenge from D.C. criminal defense attorneys is that of a "field show-up." This is a situation in which, immediately subsequent to an alleged crime, a witness is brought to the scene where the suspect has been detained and asked, "Is this the guy?"

The problem is that if the suspect is handcuffed and/or in the back of a squad car at the time of this encounter, this creates the suggestion of guilt. This can be particularly problematic if the witness has yet to provide a full description of the suspect to the officers prior to that encounter. It's also considered an issue if only one possible suspect is presented to a witness, again, creating a higher suggestion of guilt.

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February 17, 2014

Parker v. Delaware - Social Media Postings Become Criminal Evidence

When it comes to admitting social media posts as criminal evidence, courts have taken varied approaches to authentication.
In Maryland, the courts have establish that social media evidence is only authenticated through testimony of the creator, documentation of internet history or hard drive of the alleged creator's computer or information obtained directly from the social networking provider itself. The idea is that the proponent of the evidence can only submit it if that party can thoroughly convince the judge that the post wasn't falsified or created by some other user.

However, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize an entirely different approach taken by courts in Texas. Those courts have established that social media evidence can be submitted to a jury so long as it could be demonstrated to the judge that a jury might reasonably find the evidence to be authentic. That's a much lesser standard, and the one that was recently adopted by the courts in Delaware also, in Parker v. Delaware, reviewed by the Delaware Supreme Court.

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February 12, 2014

United States v. Richards - Exigent Circumstances in a Warrantless Search

Anytime a person is approached by police and asked to consent to a search, individuals should avail themselves of their right to decline consent.
This does not necessarily mean police won't still initiate the search, particularly if they have a warrant. However, the Fourth Amendment protects us all from unreasonable searches and seizures, and if there is ever a question regarding the validity of the warrant or the logical foundation for the search, absent your consent, that evidence may be suppressed (or not used against you in court).

D.C. criminal defense lawyers want to stress, however, that when you do consent, it can complicate matters a great deal, and generally it makes it much harder to argue that evidence should be suppressed.

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February 6, 2014

United States v. Keita - Credit Card Fraud Defense in D.C.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice indicate that about 10 percent of Americans are targeted by credit card fraud annually. Another 7 percent are targeted for debit or ATM card fraud. In both cases, the median amount reported stolen is about $400.
Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys recognize that while this is a growing crime trend, most of these cases are allegedly perpetuated by small groups of people or individuals. This means that when someone is arrested, they usually face a lengthy list of charges.

Per D.C. Criminal Code 22-3223, credit card fraud is defined as any person who has the intent to defraud and obtains or pays for property or services using a credit card issued to another person without that person's consent. The charge may also apply if the card used has been revoked or cancelled or if the defendant knowingly falsifies or alters a card or represents that he or she is the holder of the card when in fact he or she is not.

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January 27, 2014

Burrage v. United States - Drug Overdose Penalties Addressed by SCOTUS

Back in 1986, America was in a "War on Drugs." It was in this culture that harsh mandatory sentencing provisions were adopted that allowed an illegal drug dealer whose client had died from an overdose to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison.
For years, D.C. drug defense lawyers faced an uphill battle, as all prosecutors had to show was that the illegal drug was a contributing cause of the death - not the sole or even primary cause.

The U.S. Supreme Court's recent 9-0 decision in Burrage v. United States changes all that, creating a higher standard of proof and stripping the mandatory minimum requirements.

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January 23, 2014

D.C. Defense Lawyers: Police Can Track Your Digital Trail Without a Warrant

Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers cannot stress enough that these days, almost all forms of communication are subject to possible police surveillance.
Text messages, e-mails, e-mail drafts, Facebook posts, phone call records, even what computers you use - all of these things may potentially be monitored by police - in some cases, even without a warrant.

While we could debate the merits of this kind of expansive surveillance at length, the bigger issue for our clients is understanding what can be obtained, how it can be obtained and how that might impact your case moving ahead. (It's also valuable, we hope, in terms of urging potential clients to curb their communications with regard to certain activities, ultimately leaving police and prosecutors with a weaker case.)

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January 18, 2014

U.S. v. Shepard - Ensuring Fairness in D.C. Sex Crime Trials

Principles of tolerance are routinely preached now from all sides, but it seems there is still one category of people it is still acceptable to openly hate: sex offenders.
Indeed, not only is accepted, it's encouraged, and any suggestion that situations may not always be a clear black-and-white are met with open hostility. This makes mounting an effective sex crimes defense in D.C. a unique and extraordinary challenge.

This is no where more true than cases that involve children. As the case of United States v. Shepard reveals, ensuring fairness in these proceedings requires an aggressive defense.

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January 14, 2014

U.S. v. Thomas - D.C. Drug Convictions Challenged

Prosecutions arising from drug arrests in D.C. can be incredibly complex, as we saw with the D.C. appellate court's recent review ofUnited States v. Thomas. Defendants must be assured the legal team representing their interests is prepared to meet the challenges. disappointedman.jpg

This case involved an alleged scheme of narcotics distribution uncovered by undercover agents and informants that resulted in eight indictments, two trials and numerous life sentences. These convictions were later challenged in an aggressive appeal alleging improper admission of evidence, a tainted jury and sentencing errors.

On some of these matters, the defendants emerged triumphant.

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January 4, 2014

U.S. v. Pole - D.C. Theft and Wire Fraud Conviction Remanded on Restitution Issue

A former aide to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy may be successful in getting a restitution reduction following his conviction on five counts of wire fraud and one count of theft. The D.C. Circuit's Court of Appeals dismissed his evidentiary claims, but did remand the case back to the lower court for reconsideration on the issue of restitution.
The aide's D.C. wire fraud arrest and trial in U.S. v. Pole was closely watched by those here in the District, as many staffers in political offices are positioned to make similar errors.

Restitution orders in criminal cases are ordered to compensate the alleged victim for out-of-pocket expenses. So for example, if a person is beaten and robbed, he or she may seek restitution in criminal court for medical expenses and the amount stolen. However, claims for damages such as emotional distress would have be filed in civil court.

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January 2, 2014

Police Looking to Make More D.C. Bicycle Theft Arrests

The popularity of bicycling n D.C. has propelled full-speed ahead the last few years, in large part due to a heavy push by local government leaders to promote a greater reliance on a two-wheeled lifestyle. bicycle.jpg

More people are biking to work. More people are biking to school. More people are biking just because. All of this has created an increased number of bicycles throughout the District Subsequently, there has been a reported a spike in the number of bicycle thefts. That means police property crimes units are going to be on the hunt for alleged thieves.

While most people recognize that stealing a bicycle outright is a criminal offense (specifically, theft), some may not recognize that purchase of a stolen bicycle second-hand could be considered a felony, per D.C. Criminal Code 22-3232. This is the statute that covers receiving stolen property. So if you find a deal for a $1,000 bicycle being sold on Craigslist for $100, prosecutors may allege that you had reason to know the property was stolen and will therefore charge you with receiving stolen property.

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December 28, 2013

D.C. Defense Lawyers on the Voir Dire Phase of Trial

Recently, prosecutors in the District came under fire for running criminal background checks on a number of potential jurors in a handful of high-profile, gang-related cases. The judge voiced serious concerns that the majority of those selected for the in-depth checks were African American.
The cases involved alleged crimes of murder, assault and conspiracy. The judge demanded to know why prosecutors had given extra scrutiny to certain potential jurors, and further ordered the team to work through the night to conduct checks on the entire rest of the jury pool.

Most prosecutors in the Washington-area don't run criminal checks on potential jurors, but that doesn't mean they can't if they so choose. D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that the issue was not whether prosecutors had a right to conduct background checks, but whether those checks were selective to race.

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