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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December 23, 2013

D.C. Criminal Defense Lawyers: Preserve Your Right to Appeal

Preserving your right to appeal a criminal conviction is one of the most important things your D.C. defense lawyer can help you do - aside from, of course, helping you to avoid a conviction in the first place.
A good lawyer knows that preserving this right means being highly involved throughout the case. If the issue of contention is not first raised to the lower court for consideration, the chances of having the appellate court accept the matter for review are slim.

This is important because if the lower court errs on a matter of law or an issue of fairness, it probably won't correct itself. An appellate court is your chance to have that matter reconsidered. You don't want to forgo that chance because it could be your next best chance to have the case against you dropped.

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December 20, 2013

Some D.C. Marijuana Convictions May be Sealed by Council Vote

D.C. Council is weighing a measure that would effectively seal the criminal records of thousands convicted of marijuana possession - assuming the arrest did not involve any violence. cannabis.jpg

D.C. criminal defense attorneys know that although a hearing on the matter is slated to be held before the end of the year, it may be longer before a formal decision is reached. Consider that it was nearly a decade from the time the district approved the legalization of medicinal marijuana and the time the first dispensary opened its doors.

Still, the move is encouraging, specifically as it stands in conjunction with a bill backed by Mayor Vincent Gray to decriminalize marijuana possession in the district. That measure too has yet to come up for a vote. Councilmember David Grosso has been quoted as saying that decriminalization without some additional measure to aid those with prior convictions would be unfair.

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December 12, 2013

Wrongful Arrests in D.C. More Commonplace Than You Think

While proclamations of "You've got the wrong guy!" are frequently met with an eye roll by police officers making an arrest, the reality is that officers all too frequently blame the wrong person for a crime.handcuffssilver.jpg

If only innocence were enough to shield us all from allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Unfortunately, being wrongfully arrested in D.C. happens more often than law enforcement officials might wish to admit. Worse, proving it is sometimes not as simple as it should be.

Recently, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published an excellent investigation into this phenomena in that city.

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December 8, 2013

Murder Defense in Drug Death Cases: SCOTUS to Weigh In

With alarming frequency, individuals are being arrested on murder charges after selling or supplying drugs to individuals who later suffered a fatal overdose. drugs1.jpg

The U.S. Supreme Court last month heard oral arguments in the case of Burrage v. United States, where an accused drug dealer is on the hook for a death that occurred after the dealer sold the user heroin.

D.C. criminal defense attorneys know that courts have well established that a murder charge can be appropriate when a person provides drugs to another person who then dies as a result of consumption - even when that consumption is voluntary.

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