August 2011 Archives

August 31, 2011

On Holiday Travel and Washington, DC DUI Charges

172386_cookout_2.jpgWith Labor Day just a few days away, I thought it might be a good idea to discuss the increase in DUI charges seen by Washington, DC criminal defense lawyers following many holidays. With summer holidays, people often drive to see friends and family and enjoy a BBQ. Labor Day may be the last chance of the year. This usually means there will be a lot of drinking. If you plan on doing this, please drink responsibly or use a designated driver. The best way to avoid a Washington, DC drunk driving charge is not to drink and drive. Unfortunately, many will not follow this advice. If you are one of the unlucky ones, you may find yourself in an accident, jail, or both.

The DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), US Park Police, and US Capitol Police tend to crack down on drunk driving around holidays with increased presence, and DUI checkpoints. I have talked about field sobriety testing in great detail in previous posts, so I will focus more on what happens when you first get pulled over in Washington, DC. After the officers observe the vehicle in motion and decide to stop a driver, they will be observing everything that happens. According to most police reports, they will observe the strong odor of alcoholic beverages as soon as the window is lowered. They will observe glassy and bloodshot eyes, and maybe even slurred speech. They will ask the driver for his or her license and registration, but distract the driver after receiving the license in hopes that he or she will forget to hand over the registration. This is called a "divided attention test." They will ask the driver if he or she has been drinking, and the response will usually be "I only had a couple of drinks." At this point, they will make the driver exit the vehicle and give a number of field sobriety tests such as making the driver follow their pen/finger/flashlight with his or her eyes, walk in a line, and stand on one foot. Even if the driver thinks they did well, they will probably be arrested and charged with DUI.

The truth is, most police reports read the same way because the officers usually write the same things each time they make a report even though it may not be what actually happened. They will take out their computer template at the end of night, change some names and details, and submit the report. Your DUI attorney can explain this to you as it may apply to your actual situation, but it is often possible to challenge these details in court. This is a good reason for fighting a DUI in some cases because you can't "beat" the charge by pleading guilty. It is important to remember that an arrest is not a conviction.

August 17, 2011

On Driving Through Washington, DC with a Gun Registered in Another State: Carrying a Pistol without a License (CPWL) Charges

gun_and_bullets.jpgAs I have discussed in numerous other blog posts, Washington, DC has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. You can only possess a gun in the District if it is registered with the DC Metropolitan Police Department, and it is kept in your home or business. If you wish to take it out of your home, you can only do so if the gun is unloaded and locked, and only if you are going to do a valid recreational activity with the gun, such as hunting or going to a shooting range. If you are arrested with a firearm outside of your home, you can be charged with carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL), possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of unauthorized ammunition, or all of the above.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles gun charges, I frequently get calls from people who were arrested while driving through the district with a firearm licensed in another state such as Virginia, and even if the person arrested had a valid permit to carry the weapon. It does not matter if the gun is registered or licensed in another state, you can still get charged with CPWL in Washington, DC. As a practical matter, the DC Metropolitan Police have stated that they will not arrest a person on a DC gun charge if they were just driving through the District on the way to another state. However, this does not always seem to be the case. I have spoken to people were pulled over on the beltway for having an unregistered vehicle, and then arrested and charged with CPWL. The police have also told drivers that stopping to get gas is considered doing business in the District and therefore, the driver was not merely passing thorough.

CPWL is a very serious gun charge. There is a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison for this felony. If you have been convicted of a felony in the past, the government could charge you with being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is a 10-year felony. Even if you were a passenger in the car, you could be charged with knowingly being present in a vehicle containing a firearm, which is a five-year felony.

There are many ways to defend a gun case, but you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. The faster he starts working on your case, the better chance of being released on bail and avoiding being indicted on more serious charges. It is important to remember that an arrest is not a conviction.

August 4, 2011

Al Pacino's Daughter Arrested on DUI Charges: On Sobriety Checkpoints

dc-sobriety-checkpoint.jpgAccording to a recent story from Reuters, the 21 year-old daughter of Al Pacino was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in Manhattan. It has been reported that Julie Pacino was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint where officers noted that she had bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech, and the had the odor of alcohol on her breath. James Duffy, a spokesperson for the NYPD stated that Pacino admitting to drinking three beers and smoking marijuana before reaching the DUI checkpoint.

As a Washington, DC DUI lawyer, I speak with a lot of people have been arrested for drunk driving. Some of these people were charged with a DUI or DWI after being stopped at a sobriety checkpoint. The DC Metropolitan Police (MDP) tend to set-up DUI checkpoints in areas like Adams Morgan around the time bars are closing. They will stop some cars and let others though based on what is supposed to be a set, predetermined order. For example, they may stop one car, let four cars through, and then stop the next car. As long as they follow this procedure, they do not need any probable cause to stop a car check for drunk driving.

After stopping a car, the police will ask you to roll down your window so they can observe your eyes, speech, hand movements, and smell for the odor of alcoholic beverages. I say alcoholic beverages because pure alcohol does not have any odor. It is colorless, odorless liquid. It is actually the "congeners of alcohol" created during the fermentation process. While this may seem like a useless fact, it can be used successfully during cross-examination of a police officer claiming to be an expert on drunk driving and the effects of alcohol on drivers.

Getting back to the car stop, if the police suspect you may be intoxicated, they can ask you to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests, which I have discussed in previous posts. Again, this is okay, if the police pulled you over based on that predetermined order. In fact, they can choose any number of cars to allow through they want, but they have make that decision and stick with it throughout the entire time they are running the DUI checkpoint. If they get careless, as often happens, the stop may not be constitutional. If your DC DUI attorney can show this in court, the government may be forced to dismiss the charges against you.

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August 3, 2011

On Being Arrested in Washington, DC for Shoplifting and Theft Charges

DC Shoplifting Charges.jpgA recent article in the Washington Post discusses five common myths about shoplifting. Those five myths are that shoplifting started with the creation of the shopping mall, people shoplift out of need, most shoplifters are women and teenagers, stores can stop shoplifters, and shoplifters can always stop themselves. According to Rachel Shtier, the author of The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting, these myths are not true. As Shtier points out, shoplifting was documented in the 16th Century, many stolen items are luxury items rather than necessities, middle aged adults make up the largest percentage of shoplifters, stores have been unable to stop the crime despite increasingly sophisticated security measures, and shoplifting is being studied and treated as a disease by medical professionals. The author further suggests that the shoplifting arrests of Winona Ryder and Lindsay Lohan, which I have discussed in a previous post, make news but may not be indicative of the statistical data surrounding shoplifting.

As a Washington, DC shoplifting defense lawyer, I often get calls from people charged with theft or receiving stolen property (RSP). In the District of Columbia, the maximum penalty for theft in DC is determined by the amount or value of property involved. If the stolen property is worth $1,000 or more, this is first-degree theft punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If the value of the stolen property is less than $1,000, this is a second-degree theft charge, which is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. In the District, shoplifting is generally charged as second-degree theft.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that shoplifting or theft is a crime that makes potential employers question your trustworthiness. This may also affect immigration status because it involves dishonesty. Whether you are worried about a security clearance for the military or a government job, or trying to work in retail, banking, or the even the restaurant industry, a DC theft conviction can make things very difficult for you. You should consider these consequences before taking a quick plea. While that may get you out of court fast, the effects may follow you for the rest of your life.

August 2, 2011

Chinese Counterfeit IDs are Sweeping College Campuses Across the Nation: On Being Arrested on a Fake ID Charge in Washington, DC

fake ids.jpgAccording to an in-depth story by Ashley Halsey III of the Washington Post, Craig Eney was killed when he crashed his motorcycle. A fake ID was found in his pocket. It has been reported that Eney was driving drunk after leaving an Annapolis bar where had been buying shots with a fake ID. His fake ID is believed to be one of the countless Chinese-made fake IDs that have become extremely popular at college campuses in Washington, DC.

In the old days, a technically inclined college student usually sold fake IDs made with a good color printer and a laminating machine. These days, students email their photo, name, address, and payment info to the "Chinese guy" and a few days later they receive a shoebox or jewelry box in the mail containing a fake ID. These IDs are often hidden in the soles or shoes or under a piece of jewelry. These Fake IDs are so realistic that they can not only fool many bouncers, but will also show up as authentic when run through many scanners used at bars and liquor stores.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles fake ID charges and underage drinking charges, I typically get calls from college students who have never been in trouble before (or their parents), and are very worried that this arrest can affect their future employment. These students are not being paranoid. Officially, a fake ID charge is called "misrepresentation of age" in Washington, DC and is punishable by a $300 fine and a 90-day suspension of driving privileges. While taking a quick guilty plea may seem easy, you will end up with a conviction on your record. This particular conviction may seem minor in nature but it may have more serious consequences because using a fake ID is sometimes considered a crime of dishonesty or "moral turpitude."

Your Washington, DC fake ID lawyer can do a lot to help prevent a conviction. One of the best results may be to speak with the Assistant Attorney General assigned your case about entering you in a diversion program instead of prosecuting the case. As discussed in a previous post on this blog, a community service diversion or Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) will require you to do 32 hours of community service, stay out of trouble for four months, and perhaps some other conditions. After you comply with the terms of the diversion agreement and four months have passed, the government will dismiss the charges and you will not end up with a conviction on your record. This is only one of the ways your attorney can help you if you have been arrested for using a fake ID in the District of Columbia.