May 2011 Archives

May 31, 2011

Can My Washington, DC Criminal Charges Just Get Dismissed?

Gavel.jpgPeople often call me up after being arrested on a Washington, DC misdemeanor or even felony and ask if there is any way that the charges can just get dismissed because this is their first time ever getting charged with a crime.
As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney, I have handled cases when the prosecutor will agree to simply dismiss all charges on their first court date. In DC, the term is that the case was "no papered." While this is possible in some cases like possession of marijuana, simple assault without any injuries, or using a fake ID/underage drinking, it is probably not going to happen in the vast majority of cases. Either the offense charged has to be very minor, or the cops went way overboard when making the arrest.
Another option which may be available is when the defendant pays some money (between $50 and $150 normally) and the case is dismissed in what is called a "post and forfeit." This basically means that the case is dismissed on court costs. This is also generally reserved for minor traffic violations and other minor misdemeanors. The next options which are more likely to apply are the deferred prosecution agreement (DPA), and the differed sentencing agreement (DSA). In Washington, DC, if your criminal defense attorney can negotiate a DPA on your behalf, you must agree to probation for several months and perform community service. After you complete the community service (usually 16 or 32 hours) and comply with all other terms of the DPA, you go back to court and the judge will dismiss the charges after your compliance is verified. If you fail to do what you were supposed to do, the government can prosecute you after revoking the DPA. Solicitation of sex (prostitution) which normally involves someone getting caught by an undercover cop pretending to be a prostitute is a case that may be resolved with a DPA.
With a DSA, you must plead guilty to the offense and then agree to a similar set of conditions to the DPA. Once you complete the probation, your case will be dismissed. However, if you fail to complete the DSA requirements, the judge can automatically sentence you because you already pled guilty. A DSA in Washington, DC may be available for someone charged with a DUI depending on the facts of the case.

May 27, 2011

Washington, DC Teen Arrested for Shooting at Police: On DC Juvenile Crimes

walther.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Times, Metropolitan Police (MPD) were called to the 700 block of Crittenden Street NE in Washington, DC for reports of a male armed with a gun. When they arrived at the address, they saw a teenager on the porch holding a gun. According to reports, police ordered the suspect to drop his weapon. He refused and a shootout occurred. After an MPD officer was shot several times, the suspect fled the scene but later returned to the same address and was found hiding under the porch with the gun. This juvenile was arrested and charged with assault with intent to kill while armed. The injured MPD officer was treated at a DC hospital and is considered to be in stable condition. The juvenile had some type of minor injury for which he received treatment.

As a Washington, DC attorney who represents juveniles charged with crimes, one of the most important things to be concerned about in a case like this whether the juvenile will be charged as an adult. In the District of Columbia, if a juvenile is 15 years of age or older and has a prior juvenile record, the Family Court Judge that handles juvenile cases can have the case transferred so that the defendant will be tried as adult. If the defendant is tried as an adult and convicted, he or she will likely be committed to DC Department of Youth Services (DYRS) custody until reaching the age of 18 and transferred to an adult prison to serve the remainder of the sentence.

If you child has been charged as a juvenile, or you know that they are being investigated for a crime, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to make sure their rights are protected.

May 26, 2011

Washington, DC Medical Examiner's Office Loses its Accreditation: On Experts Used in Criminal Cases

_medical.jpgAccording to a recent Washington Times story, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) lost its accreditation from the National Association of Medical Examiners (NAME). The reason NAME pulled its accreditation was because Washington, DC Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Marie Pierre-Louis is not a board-certified pathologist. It has been reported that Pierre-Louis has been out of training long enough to make her ineligible to obtain board certification.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense lawyer, I am also interested to explore ways in which these discoveries can be used as a part of defense strategy. The government is generally at a major advantage before the case even begins. It is the government who has access to the DEA crime law in drug cases, the Mid Atlantic FBI lab for gun cases and every other scientific testing you can imagine. One of the things about the so-called scientific testing done by these agencies is that the general public generally believes their findings to be true and accurate. This is not always so. There have been many cases in which it has been discovered that the police were not following proper protocol. Sometimes, your criminal defense attorney will be able to show that the evidence was not only collected, handled or processed incorrectly, but also that the police did not even follow their own internal procedures. This can lead to having charges dismissed or not guilty verdicts at trial.

This is certainly true in DC DUI cases involving breathalyzers and urine samples, where the lack of confidence in police procedures has led to numerous charged being dropped and even convictions are possibly going to be overturned.

May 25, 2011

Pregnant Woman Hit by Stray Bullet: On Washington, DC Gun Charges

stray bullet.jpgAccording to a recent Washington Post story, a pregnant woman was shot in the leg while standing on her balcony in SE Washington, DC. According to police, the woman, eight months pregnant, heard some people arguing in the alley below her apartment and then heard shots. As she turned to run back into her apartment, she was hit in the leg by what appears to be a stray bullet. DC Metropolitan Police Captain, Byron B. Hope, stated that the woman was taken to a local hospital where her wounds were treated. Hope also stated "The wounds she sustained have nothing to do with the baby. The baby is fine."

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles gun charges, I can tell you that DC gun laws are considered the toughest in the nation, and judges treat gun cases very seriously. If you have been charged with carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) and have any prior record, the government will likely ask the court to hold you without bond on a pretrial detention order. This means that you will be at the DC jail or Clinical Treatment Facility (CTF) until trial. In cases where the defendant is held, the case is called a 100-day case and requires a trial within that time frame.

It is important to speak with an attorney who is familiar with DC gun cases and can discuss your options. There is a lot that can be done to fight charges including discovery, examination of the evidence, conducting an investigation, and filing motions to suppress evidence and dismiss the charges. It is important to remember that an arrest is not a conviction, and there are things that can be done to help.

May 23, 2011

International Drug Ring Busted in Washington, DC Metro Area: 18 Charged with Trafficking a Controlled Substance Known as "Khat"

khat.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, 18 members a suspected international drug trafficking ring allegedly headed by Yonis Muhudin Ishak were arrested on conspiracy and controlled substance charges. 10 members of the organization were arrested in the Washington, DC Metro area. According to reports, the controlled substance involved is known as "Khat." Khat is a plant with leaves containing the drug cathinone, which is an addictive stimulant that has been compared to cocaine or methamphetamine. The Khat was smuggled into the area by human traffickers, and through the U.S. Mail.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense lawyer who handles drug charges, one of the most important things I can do to help a client fight the charges is to file a motion to suppress evidence. A motion to suppress in a DC controlled substances cases such as possession with intent to distribute (PWID) challenges the way in which the police discovered the drugs and collected the evidence. If it can be shown the officers violated the defendant's constitutional rights, then the evidence should be excluded from use at trial. If the government cannot mention the existence of drugs to the jury, they can't win a controlled substance case, so they will generally dismiss the case after losing a motion to suppress. This is also true with gun or weapons charges such as carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL). Your attorney can explain how a motion to suppress may be applicable to your case.

May 17, 2011

On Getting Arrested for Simple Assault in Washington, DC

bar_sign_neon.jpgAs a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles assault charges, I frequently get calls or emails from people who have been charged with simple assault. The facts of the case are usually quite similar.

You are out at a bar or club in DC, it's getting late and an argument starts with someone else at the bar. It may be over an insult, or someone harassing one of your friends or girlfriend, but whatever the reason, it leads to a fight. At this point the bouncers or staff usually kick everyone involved out of the bar, and the fight continues in the street. The DC Metropolitan Police (MPD) arrive and take a few statements, and decide who they will arrest on simple assault charges. Sometimes it seems like there is no rhyme or reason as to who they arrest. I hear from many people who tell me that the alleged victims really started the fight.

In Washington, DC, a simple assault is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail or up to a $1,000 fine. There is often a lot that can be done to develop a strong defense. One of the most important things your criminal lawyer can assist with is conducting a thorough investigation of what really happened, so that your side of the story is presented to the court rather than just the word of the alleged victim who may have actually started the fight. There are also some specific defenses that may apply to your case such as self-defense.

May 12, 2011

Taking the Nickel: On Why it Might not be a Good Idea to Talk to the Cops (Part Three)

638063_beer_4.jpgIn parts one and two of this series on taking the nickel, I looked at gun charges and drug charges in Washington, DC. In this third part, I would like to look at how this applies to a driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge.

When the police pull someone over on suspicion of drunk driving, they are trained to observe and report everything the driver does or says. This includes how quickly and safely the driver is able to pull over, whether there is a strong odor of alcohol, fumbling fingers, slurred speech, and many other clues. They can use any number of interrogation techniques and field sobriety tests. Specifically, the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Washington, DC Metropolitan police, US Capital Police, and US Park Police who pull drivers over on suspicion of drunk driving, are also trained to ask three questions. They ask where you were driving to, if you have been drinking, and if you have had anything to drink since you got in the car. The questions may be phrased a little differently, but the point is to establish that you have been driving a vehicle, had been drinking and are under the influence of alcohol, and must have been drinking alcohol before you drove, not after. These are the three basic elements required for a DUI in Washington, DC.

As a Washington, DC DUI lawyer, I always ask new clients if the police asked them if they had been drinking, because I know the answer is going to be in the police report. When I read the report, the answer is generally, "yes," "yes, I had one or two drinks," "two or three drinks", and even the occasional "yes, I'm drunk." When I was in class to receive my certificate for training in DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing (the same course taken by police), I asked the instructor, a 28-year veteran on the state police who had pulled over thousands of people for suspicion of DUI, what he did when somebody said "I only had a one or two beers." His answer was "automatic arrest." You've probably seen hundreds of defendants on the TV show COPS give the same answer and get arrested; yet, for some reason, it seems like a good idea to say it. It is best not to admit to drinking.

If you are reading this blog because you have already been arrested for a DUI in Washington, DC and you answered in one of the ways discussed above, all is not lost. There is a lot your DUI attorney can do to help. Always remember that an arrest is not a conviction.

May 10, 2011

Taking the Nickel: On Why it Might not be a Good Idea to Talk to the Cops (Part Two)

Crack Pipes.jpgIn part one of this series of posts, I discussed a situation where defendants have often talked their way into jail. This was in the context of a gun or weapons charge, but the same could just as easily apply to a Washington, DC drug charge.

As a criminal defense attorney, I have represented people charged with many different drug crimes. However, one of my most memorable was a middle-aged woman charged with possession with intent to distribute (PWID) cocaine base (crack). What makes this case so memorable is that she was sitting at her kitchen table, smoking crack with her boyfriend and the woman her boyfriend was having an affair with. My client found out about the affair, confronted her boyfriend, and this was their way of sitting down together and working it all out. The other woman brought the crack as peace offering of sorts. While they were all sitting at the table, the police pounded on the door and rushed in saying they had a search warrant. They found the three of them sitting at the table with a crack pipe. The police asked everyone if they had been smoking crack, and my client quickly blurted that the following: "I may have been smoking crack, but it was that bitch's crack, so I'm innocent."

It took a while to finally get her to understand that she had just confessed to a crime, rather than showing that she was innocent. In the end, with much negation on my part with the government, my client was able to walk out of court, rather than being led out in cuffs and shackles, but if she had just remained quiet, things might have been a lot easier for her. If you are reading this blog because you have already been accused of a crime in Washington, DC, and may have already talked to the police, speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible, and remember, don't talk to anyone about your case in the meantime.

If you are wondering about the picture that is along side this blog entry, "love roses" are commonly sold in stores as novelty items. The glass tube that holds the rose is often used as a crack pipe.

May 9, 2011

Taking the Nickel: On Why it Might not be a Good Idea to Talk to the Cops (Part One)

475859_nickel.jpgAs a Washington, DC criminal defense lawyer, one of the first things I tell my clients is that they should never speak with anyone other than me about their case. This includes their friends, family, codefendants, anyone in jail, and especially the police. As I have said before, when the police say they want to speak with you about an allegation, there is usually nothing you can do help yourself by talking to the police, even if you are innocent. I have seen many cases where a defendant's statements were used against them. You have the right to remain silent and so not incriminate yourself under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This right is also referred to as the privilege against self-incrimination, or "taking the fifth." For those who like to read John Connolly books like The Lincoln Lawyer and The Brass Verdict, you will know it as "taking the nickel."

I would like to discuss several instances of how people typically talk to their way into jail. First let's look at a client charged with carrying a pistol without a license or other gun or weapons charge in Washington, DC. You are driving from Atlanta to New York to see family. Along the way, you decide to stop in Washington, DC to see some friends. You park your car on the street illegally but figure the worst that will happen is getting a ticket. You look out the window and see an MPD officer looking in your car and go out to speak with him. You tell him that it's your car and you were just parked there for a minute. He looks at you and says, "Is there anything in the car I should know about?" At this point you realize that you have a gun in the car--a gun that is properly registered in Georgia, and is now sitting in the glove compartment. You can simple say no, give no other reason, and take the ticket. Instead you figure the cop must already know so you say, yeah there's a gun in the car, but it's legal and registered. At this point, you have a gun pointed at you and are being told to get on the ground. You are arrested and charged with carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL), unregistered ammunition (UA), or being present in a vehicle with a firearm. These are serious crimes in Washington, DC. If you had taken a nickel and said nothing, you might be on your way. Now, the only person you should be speaking to is your lawyer. It is important to remember that there is a lot that can be done to prevent a conviction, but remaining silent is a good first step.

May 5, 2011

A morning in Washington, DC Traffic Court with the Protesters

dclicenseplate.jpgWhen I arrived at Washington, DC Traffic Court this morning for DUI arraignments, I found the court filled with people. Traffic court is normally pretty busy in DC but this was out of the ordinary. I quickly learned that the many of the protesters arrested by the US Capital Police during a demonstration opposing federal cuts to the city budget were being arraigned. It was at that protest that Mayor Gray, members of the DC City Council, and other members of the community were arrested for failure to obey to a police officer and blocking an intersection. The police apparently chose to arrest them on traffic violations rather than disturbing the piece or unlawful assembly so as not to be a First Amendment issue. Many of the protestors, including Mayor Gray, had already paid $50.00 to have the charges dropped as part of a deal offered by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for Washington, DC.

The 17 defendants who showed up in traffic court today were given a chance to have the case dropped for a payment of $100.00. Nine of them chose to pay. The others will be back in court next month. If they do not pay fine, they could eventually face jail time.

While this is not an everyday occurrence in traffic court, the concept of paying money to have a case dropped is quite common. In Washington, DC, this is called "Post and Forfeiture." The defendant is offered the chance to pay between $50.00 and $150.00 and the charges are dropped. There will be no conviction on the defendant's record. The defendant can later get the arrest expunged from their record with the help of a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney. I want to point out that this post and forfeiture procedure is usually reserved for offenses like using a fake ID or underage drinking. It will not generally be available for DUI charges. In the case of a DUI or DWI arrest in Washington, DC, your attorney can speak with out about other options like a differed sentencing agreement (DSA) which may be available.

May 4, 2011

Can the Police Lie When Interrogating a Suspect in Washington, DC? : On the "Mobile Gun Scanner"

gun scanner1.jpgAs a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney, I often hear from clients who have confessed to some illegal activity or given the police consent to search a car or vehicle, or even his or her home without a warrant or probable cause. It may seem strange that while almost everyone who has ever watched TV or seen a movie can recite a Miranda warning by heart, very few people actually use that right and remain silent. Many people also know that the cops can't search a car or house with a warrant or probable cause. The only reason the police ask for consent is because they can't do a search a without it. So why are these people talking and giving consent to search? One common reason is that police sometimes lie to suspects.

I was sitting with a client charged with carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) at the DC Central Detention Facility (jail) reading a Metropolitan Police (MPD) report to him, and asked why he gave his consent to search his car. He said, they told him that the already used their "mobile gun scanner" and knew there was a shotgun in the car. He tells me that everyone in jail knows about the mobile gun scanner. He then asked me if I knew what the mobile gun scanner was, and I told him that I do, it's a lie police tell to suspects to trick them into searching their car. The vehicle scanners which actually exist, as pictured above, are far from the handheld version imagined by the police.

If you are ever stopped by the police in the police in Washington, DC and they ask for permission to search to car, you can say no. You don't even have to give them a good reason. If you been arrested and read your Miranda rights and they say that they you can tell them your side of the story, and that they are just trying to help, they are probably lying to you, or you wouldn't be in handcuffs or shackled to an interview room floor at the Third District Station.

May 3, 2011

Redskins "player" Albert Haynesworth has been Indicted on Sex Abuse Charges in Washington, DC

Albert-Haynesworth3-310x186.jpgAccording to a recent story on NBC Washington, Redskins player Albert Haynesworth has been indicted on Sex Abuse charges in Washington, DC. It has been alleged that Haynesworth was at the W Hotel attempting to pay his bill and asked the waitress, whose hands were full, if it was okay to put his credit card in her blouse. According to court papers, she nodded that that was acceptable, however she reported to police that Haynesworth proceeded to grab and caress her breast after placing the credit card in her blouse. Haynesworth's agent denied that there was any truth to these allegations.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles sex abuse charges,
I tend to get calls from people who have been accused of sexual abuse, who do not understand how they have been charged with such a crime in the first place. In the case of a first or second degree sexual abuse (rape), there is generally little doubt that if true, this conduct would be a serous crime, however with third and fourth degree sexual abuse, such as allegedly groping another person at a night club, the line is often not so clear. There is also the issue of being placed on the sex offender registry, which can have serious effects on your life.

One of the most important things you can do if you are being investigated for or are charged with a Sex Abuse crime in Washington, DC is to contact an attorney as soon as possible. It is best not answer any questions the police may ask even if they tell you that they are only tying to figure out what happened and that you are not in trouble yet. The police are trained to lie to suspects, and they do so every day.