November 2011 Archives

November 29, 2011

Washington, D.C., No. 1 in U.S. in Fatal Hit-And-Run Accident Rate

It's a statistic that District of Columbia residents probably aren't proud of -- Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of fatal hit-and-run accidents in the country, WTOP reports.

Many hit-and-run accidents are the result of drinking, so hiring an experienced Washington, D.C., DWI lawyer would be the smart thing to do.
Being charged with DWI in Washington, D.C., can be daunting for someone who hasn't been introduced to the criminal justice system. Many people who cause an accident and drive off aren't doing it because they're trying to be disrespectful or hurtful, but because they're terrified of the consequences, even if the accident isn't their fault.

In cases where a person dies as the result of a vehicle accident, a driver can face vehicular homicide or negligent homicide charges in Washington, D.C. These are serious charges that can lead to years behind bars.

According to the news story, one in every six fatal accidents between 2000 and 2009 in the District of Columbia were caused by a person who left the scene, Mid-Atlantic AAA reports. According to the organization's statistics, that's 76 people who died, which includes not only other drivers, but also pedestrians and bicyclists.

Washington, D.C., didn't have the highest number of fatal hit-and-run accidents in the mid-Atlantic region, but the highest rate based on traffic deaths. In Maryland, 279 of the 6,219 traffic deaths involved drivers who took off to avoid arrest. In Virginia, 217 of the 9,161 fatal accidents were hit-and-runs. In the District, 76 of the 465 deaths -- 16.3 percent -- were hit-and-runs. Maryland, at 4.5 percent and Virginia, at 2.4 percent, were considerably lower.

A person convicted of negligent homicide can face up to five years in prison. If a driver also flees the scene, additional charges can be filed. Many people who are found guilty of fleeing the scene of an accident get caught based on witness testimony, paint samples matching a vehicle, video surveillance and media exposure.

Attempting to fix a vehicle that has been in a bad accident when news reports are swirling about someone who committed a hit-and-run accident, especially when someone has died, could be next to impossible. It is better to avoid the crime of leaving the scene of an accident.

Even if you believe you may have caused the crash, there are defenses. It may be possible that the other driver was at fault, traffic lights were faulty or your vehicle had mechanical issues. In cases where DWI or DUI is alleged, breath testing, field sobriety tests and other issues can be brought up in defense of the client.

Not every case appears as it seems and not every person arrested by police is guilty. That's why hiring an experienced Washington, D.C., DWI lawyer is so important. You have rights and they must be upheld at every stage of the case. Well-researched defenses must be presented.

Continue reading "Washington, D.C., No. 1 in U.S. in Fatal Hit-And-Run Accident Rate" »

November 25, 2011

University of Maryland Armed Robbery Leads to Arrest of Man in Washington D.C.

A 21-year-old man is in custody in Washington D.C. as authorities attempt to connect him to an armed robbery on the University of Maryland College Park campus, The Baltimore Sun reports.

D.C.'s Metropolitan police and George Washington police teamed with University of Maryland campus police to work on the case. A charge of armed robbery in Washington D.C. is a serious charge that can lead to prison time -- up 30 years.
If you are arrested with armed robbery or suspicion of armed robbery, you should contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You have a right to remain silent and that can't be used against you. If you choose to speak with police upon arrest, you can have whatever you say recorded and used in support of a conviction.

When dealing with campus-based crimes, defendants often face more scrutiny than off-campus crimes. That's because there's a financial impact to crime happening on a college campus. If news spreads that a college campus is susceptible, it can hurt admissions, keep recruits away and lead to a decline in the university's image. Even cases of college drug crimes in Washington D.C. can be handled rather zealously compared to typical street crime.

And the charges can be even more damaging to a college-aged or juvenile defendant. While older adults may be more financially stable and able to take the difficulties of facing criminal charges, a college student may face lifelong consequences that can hamper their future.

In some cases, a mere arrest can lead to expulsion from a university and a conviction can get a person kicked out of the school. These could be in serious situations only, but it depends on the circumstances. Even convictions of minor crimes can lead to economic consequences that can make affording college difficult or lead to disqualification from a scholarship.

In the University of Maryland case, a man was being held by Washington D.C. police on an unrelated robbery charge when police in Maryland say they found evidence linking him to an attack where a student was robbed at knifepoint.

The man faces charges of armed robbery, first-degree assault, theft and other, less-serious offenses, the newspaper reports. Campus police are still looking for a second suspect.

Two men who were wearing masks and dark clothing approached a male student who was walking near dorms one weeknight around midnight, the newspaper states. News reports state that a similar attack took place at George Washington University in Washington D.C., but it's unclear if there is a connection.

Because the suspects in this case were masked, wearing dark clothing, it was late at night and it was a surprise attack, it's unlikely that witnesses will be able to help here. Unless there was something distinct about the attackers, anyone could have committed the crime.

In armed robbery cases, the penalties are so severe that every aspect of the case must be looked at and probed for evidence that can help the defendant. And the defendant must have sound legal representation at every stage of the case.

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November 21, 2011

Occupy Washington D.C. Protesters Arrested, But Have Rights That Police Aren't Upholding

The "Occupy" movement has been well-documented in the news media in recent weeks, as many of the 99 percent have taken to the streets to protest the actions of big banks and corporate greed.

In Washington D.C., the movement has led to arrests, many of which are unlawful -- police are trampling upon the rights of those who are exercising their right to free speech. Many college students and juveniles have been tangled up in alleged criminal activity and risk a future with a criminal record if convicted.
Juvenile arrests in Washington D.C. can lead to missed opportunities in getting jobs, disqualification from college and other issues. Even those who are in college or college-aged can be harmed if they are falsely arrested by police.

If you have been arrested by law enforcement in the Washington D.C. area because of exercising your Constitutional right to free speech, contact a Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer. Fighting back in court is akin to fighting big businesses and leaders who have let unemployment and poverty spread.

Many of the Occupy protesters who have been arrested have been charged only with minor, misdemeanor charges. But some have faced more serious charges, including those related to violence against police officers. These charges can severely impact a person's life, if they are convicted.

In Washington D.C. recently, 13 people were arrested after police raided a former homeless shelter that protesters were using. According to The Washington Post, police officers moved in after about 200 supporters gathered around the Franklin School, which is owned by the city.

After a standoff for about three hours, firefighters broke down a door and police entered the building. Supporters formed a chain around the building and police "negotiated" with them in order to avoid more arrests. The school, a historic landmark, was formerly a homeless shelter, but was shut down three years ago.

In an extreme example of violence, police officers from the University of California, Davis, were caught pepper spraying protesters in front of a crowd of people. They were sitting on the ground as officers with helmets stood in front of them and sprayed them in the face.

The campus police chief was put on leave and the university's chancellor has asked for a criminal investigation. In Oakland, The Times reports, police used tear gas to quell supporters of the movement.

In a small sign of hope, a federal judge in Florida recently ruled that a city ordinance that makes protestors get a city permit a violation of demonstrators' First Amendment rights. The News-Press in Fort Myers said that the ruling was a victory for Americans' rights and free speech.

This movement may well continue for months to come, as people attempt to stop the issues they see ruining our great country. Many of these protestors are young and impressionable and risk ruining their future if an arrest turns into a conviction. If you are arrested, contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer, who can help you fight the charges.

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November 17, 2011

Washington D.C. Traffic, DWI Will Increase As Holiday Season Approaches

As the holiday season approaches, many people have time off from work so they can slow down and enjoy some relaxation before the new year kicks everyone back into gear.

But traffic and police don't take a break for the holidays. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Law enforcement officers will be on the lookout using increased patrols, sobriety checkpoints and other methods to try to arrest people for DUI in Washington D.C.

There will also be an increase in traffic. Last year, AAA estimated there would be 51 million people on the roads between Christmas and New Years, which can easily lead to an increase in vehicle accidents and traffic tickets. Many traffic violations in Washington D.C. can even lead to jail time and hefty fees.

If you are saddled with any traffic-related violations this holiday season, you should consult with an experienced Washington D.C. traffic ticket lawyer. There are defenses to these charges that must be investigated before a person considers the idea of accepting a plea deal or paying a waiver. Points on your license, increased insurance premiums and even job loss can result from a poor driving record.

The Associated Press recently reported about an incident that happened outside the Occupy DC protests where three protesters were struck by a motorist.

Because of conflicts in statements between protesters and the police, the news wire service reports, the driver won't face charges. Police have said that the collision was unavoidable. The three protesters allegedly were blocking the roadway even though the driver had a green light. They were hospitalized and later released.

The protesters, who dispute the story and say that the driver was impatient and sped toward them, were cited for obstructing traffic and walking against a do-not-walk sign.

A second Associated Press article claims that data released through an information request shows that police in Washington D.C. have arrested 3,500 drivers in the past two years whose cars were unregistered or who had expired tags. While most weren't locked up, the hassle is unwarranted for what is often a simple oversight.

In 250 of the cases, people were sent to jail. But the majority agreed to pay a fine or received a citation in lieu of a ticket or a trial date. The article goes on to state that officers in the district have the discretion to bring someone to jail for these violations, but don't the majority of the time.

It's unclear if Washington D.C. is the only jurisdiction in the country that allows for jail time for an expired tag. But an AAA official said he wasn't able to find one. He believes that only people charged with reckless driving or DUI should be locked up. He found it outrageous that police are taking people to jail for a minor traffic infraction.

Keep in mind this holiday season that police have a variety of ways to disturb your life and lock you up. Practice safe driving habits and try to stay out of trouble. But if you are arrested by police, contact an experienced D.C. defense lawyer immediately.

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November 15, 2011

Washington D.C. Defendants Have a Right to Due Process in Weapons Cases

A recent case out of the Boston area shows just how critical evidence can be in a criminal case, especially when police botch it.

Guns and weapons charges in Washington D.C. can lead to jail and prison sentences. Even mere possession of an unregistered weapon can result in a fine and incarceration.
An experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer must be consulted if you face these serious charges. Police can charge you with whatever they want; it's what you are convicted of that counts.

An important part of any criminal case is the handling of evidence that police intend to use against you. Most people understand that a defendant has a right to confront all witnesses, meaning they can question everyone on the stand. These questions can reveal holes in their stories and even discredit them completely.

But a person charged with a crime also has a right to see all evidence the prosecution intends to use against them -- or that was made available to police and prosecutors whether or not such evidence is used by prosecutors as part of their case. This means that anything the police dig up and prepare to use must be disclosed to the defendant. Even if there's evidence that detectives discover that could be beneficial to the defendant, it must be disclosed.

In the case in Boston, four men are charged with weapons offenses, but their lawyers are asking that the cases be dismissed because a security videotape was taped over at a gas station where the alleged crimes occurred, The Sun Chronicle reports.

This is a major blunder for the police department investigating the case. As the newspaper reports, an officer watched the tape because it was noted in a police report. But after viewing the tape, police apparently didn't secure a copy and the gas station manager taped over it.

The case centered around a dispute between the defendants and the people inside a Hummer limousine. The videotape allegedly showed part of an altercation, though prosecutors tried to downplay what was on the tape.

Regardless, this is a situation where it's unknown what is on the tape and that tape could help the defendants. Because the tape is gone, the defendants will never know if that could be helpful to their case. The defendants -- ages 19 to 22 -- face multiple firearms charges that could lead to prison time.

It's critical that a defendant's due process rights are upheld in a criminal case. When a person's liberty is on the line, there are no excuses for losing evidence. This is especially true in cases of violence, when officers go trampling through a crime scene, potentially destroying evidence.

If you are facing a serious felony offense, meet with a skilled criminal defense lawyer, who can ensure that your rights are upheld and that all evidence presented against you is scrutinized. Don't allow the prosecution to violate your rights en route to a conviction. Fight back.

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November 9, 2011

More on Not Talking to the Enemy and Why You Should Take The Nickel (Plead the Fifth) When Being Investigated for a Washington, DC Crime

I have been getting a lot calls recently from people who are being contacted by the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police and told he or she is the subject of an investigation.

Sometimes it for an alleged sexual abuse, other times it may be for a white-collar crime; it could even be fore a violent felony like armed robbery or murder. As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney, these potential clients often ask me to go with them to talk to the cops. And the answer to that is generally no. Not because I don't want to take the case or help out, but because there is often no reason to agree to speak with the police in the first place. 1084673_doubt.jpg

Your attorney can decided if that is appropriate in your case, and if not, then he can call the officer and tell him you are exercising your constitutional right not making any statements.

You may be asking if that means you will be arrested if you don't talk. The answer is maybe. They may very well arrest you if they have enough evidence without you making a statement. If they don't have enough evidence and you don't speak to them, then they will probably not arrest you.

But if you go in there trying to explain what happened, they can and will use it against you. What generally doesn't happen is, the suspect goes in and makes a statement and the officer decides not to press charges. This may seem strange, but the cops can use anything against you even if you think it shows your innocence. As you have seen many times on Law and Order and shows like it, the cops are not your friends and they are not trying to help you no matter what they say in the interrogation room. They don't have the power to make any deals on behalf of the United States Attorney, and they usually aren't concerned with your best interests. They are looking to make an arrest, so why help them?

Keep in mind that the police don't ever ask you to do anything unless they need your permission. They ask you for consent to search your car because they don't have probable cause to do the search without your consent. They ask you to come down to the station because they don't have probable cause to get an arrest warrant. If they did, they would not be asking, they would just cuff you and take you in to the station. The best thing you can do is take the nickel and call an attorney.

Just to put this in an historical context, since the 1966 landmark Supreme Court decision of Miranda v. Arizona, politicians have been trying to get rid of the requirement for a Miranda warning. There was a law created in 1968 that was designed to overrule Miranda. It took over 30 years to reach the Supreme Court and when it did, it was decided that the Miranda warnings are constitutionally required. Even judges like the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist voted to keep the warnings. While this came as a surprise to many, the reason was not necessarily to protect the people from self-incrimination. It was the fact that almost everybody can repeat the Miranda warning by heart.

Even high school students can tell you that you have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. What Rehnquist realized was that dispite having committed these significant constitutional protects to memory, the vast majority of people will give them up without thinking twice and talk. Don't be one of these people. Take a nickel and protect your rights.

Continue reading "More on Not Talking to the Enemy and Why You Should Take The Nickel (Plead the Fifth) When Being Investigated for a Washington, DC Crime" »