December 2011 Archives

December 24, 2011

70 Arrested in Washington, D.C., Gun, Drug Sting Operation

The Washington Times reports that a yearlong police operation has ended in 70 arrests, the confiscation of more than 160 guns and more than $7 million in drugs, officials announced to the news media recently.

Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers are sometimes skeptical of long-term police stings where officers make many arrests. In many cases, that's because these operations often rely on many witnesses to ensure officers have sufficient evidence.
Washington D.C. gun charges can result in long prison terms, especially when coupled with drug charges. When officers conduct these operations, there are inevitably people who aren't guilty who get caught up with others who may be more culpable.

Prosecutors nearly always require some of these defendants to become witnesses for the state. This opens up obvious issues related to the credibility of these witnesses. Once charged with a serious crime and looking at possible prison time, they may suddenly warm up to investigators and become friendly.

In many cases, these people are required to provide a statement of their involvement and that of co-defendants. Once they testify, they are expected to say nearly the same exact thing as that statement, regardless of whether it's 100 percent accurate. The more details they can prove, the better the deal they'll get.

In this case, police said that "Operation Manic Enterprises" helped to solve more than a dozen open crimes and halt a drug ring that sought to push meth onto Washington, D.C., streets.

Police say one man in particular allegedly offered weapons to undercover officers -- nearly 10 a month for six months -- before he was arrested. Police said they learned he planned to rob them during the next transaction, so they arrested him.

Police set up a fake music recording studio and used the space to entice alleged gun and drug dealers to sell their wares. More than 80 pounds of methamphetamines, 21 pounds of cocaine, 23.5 pounds of heroin, ecstasy and marijuana and 1.25 gallons of PCP were seized as part of the yearlong sting.

The newspaper reports that several people have already entered guilty pleas from arrests made earlier this year. One man, who was arrested in July, took in more than $21,000 for guns and drugs he sold to officers. He has pleaded guilty to a charges related to gun possession and drug distribution. Nine members of a Mexican drug cartel were arrested late last year and another man faces charges that he offered up hand grenades and a rocket launcher.

While police like to look good in the news media by flaunting arrest numbers, the real test is how many of these arrests turn into meaningful convictions. In many cases, officers rush to judgment as they get into the throws of their operation.

In others, police rely on innuendo and rumor in making arrests of some peripheral members of a criminal operation. When the case comes down to a trial, the real facts come out and show that officers simply ruined people's reputations rather than made meaningful arrests. Thankfully, every criminal defendant has the right to a fair trial and that's where the true facts come out.

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December 21, 2011

Are Washington, D.C., Police Racially Profiling Guests at Public Housing?

A potentially disturbing trend is taking place at local housing projects, as black men are alleging that the DC Housing Authority Police and Metropolitan Police are giving them "barring notices" and arresting them under false pretenses, WUSA9 reports.

This is especially troubling for Washington D.C. juveniles charged with crimes, not knowing their rights or how to react to such a situation. Sometimes, young people are charged as being suspects by police, but they actually become victims by authorities who are able to manipulate the law.
Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize that young people who are charged with crimes can end up with long-term consequences as a result of a problem as a teenager. We also realize that teenagers who may be in the wrong place at the wrong time often are cited by police without a whole lot of proof.

A strong police interrogation can turn an innocent teenager into a guilty one, especially when that young person doesn't realize that he or she has a right to remain silent and are under no obligation to speak with officers. Detectives may tell suspects that the only way they can help themselves is to give a statement, but teens don't know that may not be the best thing for them to do at that time.

Even arrests for misdemeanors, seemingly minor crimes, can lead to disqualification for scholarships and college admissions, a job or other necessities that lead to a solid future. Juvenile defendants require strong criminal representation.

In this case, several young African-American men believe that housing police officers and metro officers are forbidding them from visiting housing projects merely based on what they're wearing.

The news station WUSA9 reports that housing authority officials say people are barred from going to public housing projects if they engage in activity that "threatens the safety, health or peaceful enjoyment" of the area for other residents.

One 21-year-old told the news station that he has no prior criminal history, but he was thrown to the ground, searched by officers and had an officer's boot placed on his neck simply for the way he looked.

Another man, a Board of Education member who has a contract to serve on the property, was also arrested. After public pressure, charges were dismissed, but an arrest record still stands.

Local Washington, D.C., criminal defense lawyers have begun working to fight the problem, which they believe is racial discrimination. Another man told the news station that while he has an arrest record from his teenage years, he is now a college graduate who is attempting to be a role model to other young people in the projects.

This is certainly an issue worth looking at because there is no excuse or reason for racially profiling. In 2011, this is an issue that simply shouldn't be cropping up. Police must have a reasonable suspicion, called reasonable doubt, to investigate any person in this country. Simply looking a certain way or having a past criminal history isn't grounds.

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December 17, 2011

D.C. Politician Charged With Soliciting a Prostitute

A Democrat running for the Ward 7 D.C. Council seat formerly held by his father was recently charged with soliciting a prostitute, which his campaign manager says is a bogus charge, The Washington Post reports.

Kevin B. Chavous intends to fight the charges, The Post reports. A police report states he offered an undercover officer money in exchange for sex.
Charges of prostitution in Washington, D.C., are filed as misdemeanors, but that doesn't necessary mean it is a minor crime.

For one, it tends to attract the attention of the news media, which can lead to major embarrassment. And not only embarrassment, but job loss, loss of reputation and future issues that could be affected by an old charge.

An aggressive Washington. D.C.. criminal defense attorney will tell you that these charges are often based on "sting" operations designed to trap as many people as possible. In some cases, overzealous police officers will bend the truth to make an arrest.

According to The Post, the man's campaign manager says he was targeted and wasn't soliciting a prostitute in any way. Police say the incident happened around midnight near K Street NE. He faces a charge of solicitation for lewd and immoral purposes.

The newspaper reports that his father spent three terms in the seat until he lost in a 2004 Democratic primary election. Chavous is the district coordinator for the Black Alliance for Educational Options and is a proponent of parent choice issues.

Police typically set up these prostitution operations in areas after neighbors complain there is an increase in criminal activity. The typical set up is a female officer dressed as a prostitute walk the streets within view of undercover police officers who are either parked nearby or sitting nearby.

Sometimes, conversations between officers and "Johns" are recorded and other times they aren't. The issue of entrapment is common in these cases and there is a fine line between what is entrapment and what isn't.

Generally, entrapment is when police entice a person into committing a crime they normally wouldn't have committed. That's why the alleged conversation between a suspect and an undercover police officer prostitute is so important. Simply pulling up to a prostitute and striking up a conversation isn't illegal.

Once the issue of money in exchange for sex comes up, that's when a person can get in trouble. But if the police officer brings up the topic first and entices the person to agree to a deal, it's possible that's entrapment. Depending on the facts, motions can be filed in advance of a trial that could seek a dismissal of the charges.

Each case is different, but equally important. An arrest is a bad mark on a person's life, but fighting back and ensuring there is no conviction can go a long way toward restoring a person's credibility. Each person is guaranteed a fair trial.

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December 13, 2011

Be Careful This Holiday Season, as Police Seek Arrests for DUI in Washington, D.C.

For many people, the winter holidays mean some down time, away from politics, away from college and travel to a visit with families.

But for police, the holidays are a prime time to step up patrols and attempt to make as many DWI arrests in Washington D.C. as possible.
As law enforcement authorities did during the Thanksgiving holiday, they will increase the number of law enforcement officers on the roads and take part in special projects designed to trap drivers. Our Washington D.C. DUI defense lawyers expect a significant number of officers to be on the roads during the holidays through the rest of the year.

As many news sources have reported, scores of drivers are expected to hit the road this holiday season. Some experts say more than 90 million people will be traveling, an increase from last year despite a hike in gas prices. More than 90 percent of those people are expected to be driving. That could mean that the Interstate 95 corridor should be even more packed with cars than normal through the rest of the year.

Maryland State Police reported arresting more than 100 people for DUI during the Thanksgiving holiday period, which was only a five-day period, WUSA9 reports. During that time period, 113 people were charged with DUI and troopers handed out another 10,000 traffic citations.

Our Washington, D.C., DWI lawyers certainly recognize that some people use this down time from work or school to have a few drinks while hanging out with family or friends. There's certainly nothing wrong with that if you're over 21. But where people get in trouble is if they attempt to drive after having a few too many.

And police have several ways to nab a person for drinking and driving in Washington, D.C.:

Sobriety checkpoints: Police will saturate an area, stopping vehicles randomly to make a quick check of the person's eyes and possibly their speech to see if there's any possibility they've been drinking and driving. While attorneys have fought these as unconstitutional because officers have no probable cause to suspect DUI in the first place, courts have allowed them.

Random stops: Police must have what's called probable cause in order to pull a vehicle over. This usually comes if a person is swerving, has a tail light out, runs a red light or commits another traffic infraction. This gets the officer to the driver, where the officer can make observations that can lead to a DUI investigation.

Speed traps: If police set up shop on high-traffic areas of the highway or local roads where people tend to accelerate, that can lead to another avenue for a DWI investigation. Once pulled over, the driver is up to the observations of the cop regarding whether he or she has been driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Police departments like to brag about how many DUI, DWI or OWI arrests they make during the holidays. Don't become a statistic. Drive safe and take precautions this holiday season. If you drink, don't drive. Get a designated driver and have a safe and happy holiday season.

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December 9, 2011

Despite Resistance, Occupy D.C. Going Strong In Fight For Equality

Despite violence throughout the nation, including unnecessary pepper-spraying in California and arrests up and down the East Coast, Occupy D.C. members are still trying to spread the word of social equality and accountability for the rich and powerful.

While police have used forceful tactics in their effort to get people to stop peacefully protesting and enjoying their constitutional rights to do so, it's possible that a majority of the arrests that were made were done so unlawfully. Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers
believe that what has been going on nationwide is a symbol of our freedom of speech and a collective effort to hold certain businesses accountable for their actions.occupyprotestarrests.jpg

Many people arrested in the Occupy movement have been older folks who fully understand what they're doing. Others are college students who may not understand the long-term implications of an arrest. Protest arrests in D.C. should be vigorously contested.

Even being charged with a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest or another crime that law enforcement allege can have serious consequences to a young person.

This can lead to extended jail time, probation, fines and fees, community service and other court-ordered sanctions. The charges can lead to embarrassment as well. But considering the news media coverage, it can also lead to job loss, disqualification from college or scholarships and other future plans that may be important to a person. That's why ensuring someone is fighting these charges on your behalf is critical.

Two recent news stories show that the movement is going strong in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post reports that three Occupy members have started a hunger strike in order to support democracy in the District and full voting rights for residents.

This is a side group to the Occupy movement called Occupy the Vote D.C. and calls for legislative and budgetary autonomy and full representation and voting rights in Congress.

In other news, protesters recently took over K Street as officers made more than 60 arrests as people blocked four key intersections for much of the day one recent Wednesday. The protest lasted more than an hour after a standoff between protesters and Metropolitan police officers.

The people set up tents and linked arms on the busy street and many faced a charge of blocking a highway. Police used loudspeakers to warn protesters to stop. When they wouldn't, police moved in and began arresting people, tying wrists with plastic strips.

Other law enforcement agencies were called in to help with crowd control and to ensure that drivers wouldn't run over protesters. Protesters tipped over newspaper boxes to use to block traffic and stand atop. Police horses were used to move the crowd.

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December 6, 2011

Number of Female Drunken Drivers on the Rise; Police Combat DUI in Washington, D.C.

A recent report shows that female drunken driving arrests are up 36 percent in the last decade.

Our Washington D.C. DWI lawyers also reported recently on our blog that men made up 81 percent of DUI arrests, based on a 2010 survey.
So, which statistics should you believe? More in-depth studies have shown that DUI nationwide is on a downward trend over the last several decades, like due to public relations campaigns fueled by government spending.

Regardless of what the statistics show, police will always make DUI in Washington D.C. a priority. This is partly because it is possible to kill someone in your vehicle (whether sober or not, mind you) and because if the news media reports incidents of DUI, DWI or OWI are on the rise it looks bad for law enforcement.

The bottom line is that everyone -- regardless of gender, race or age -- is at risk for being charged with drinking and driving at any time, assuming of course they actually have consumed alcoholic beverages. Police strive to make as many drunken-driving arrests as possible because it looks good for the department. A lull in numbers implies they aren't doing enough to stop it, even if that means there aren't as many dangerous drivers as people might think.

But simply being arrested shouldn't imply guilt. An arrest means a police officer believes there is probable cause to make an arrest. Probable cause is a low standard. It could mean the officer saw a person swerving and when they had a conversation after a traffic stop, the officer believed the driver talked funny.

Luckily for drivers who face this charge, probable cause can't put you in prison, put you on probation or hit you with other court-ordered sanctions. The prosecution must have proof beyond all reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction and that's different altogether.

That's why many times charges are dropped by prosecutors between the time a person is arrested and arraigned. If the officer has little proof to secure a conviction, the charges could go away. If an experienced Washington, D.C., DWI lawyer shows the prosecutor that there is proof in the defendant's favor that he or she wasn't driving drunk, the charges also could be dropped before trial.

According to The Washington Post story, a recent study shows the number of women involved in drunken driving arrests is up 36 percent in the last 10 years. The characteristics of the typical female arrested for DUI are interesting -- more educated and older than her male counterpart.

The article goes on to talk about the 2009 incident of a New York mother who was drunk and high when she went onto the wrong side of a highway and caused a crash that killed three men in another vehicle, her, her daughter and her three nieces.

It brought to light the problem of parents and, in particular, mothers who may be drinking while taking care of their children. Having a glass of wine or two while visiting with a friend may be no problem, but it could cause your blood alcohol level to be above the legal limit of 0.08.

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December 2, 2011

Supreme Court Hears Argument on Warrantless GPS Monitoring in U.S. v. Antoine Jones

As you can see every day, technology continues to become more and more advanced and sophisticated. Cell phones are almost a necessity for many, the Internet is accessible anywhere at anytime, and traveling has been made easier with global positioning satellite services.

GPS is found in many devices, including cell phones and gadgets that provide maps for people on the go. The recent case of a Washington, D.C., man who was tracked by the FBI in a Washington, D.C., drug case has gone to the United States Supreme Court because of alleged police misconduct. Washington, D.C., criminal defense lawyers have seen instances where overzealous police work leads to a violation of rights. In many cases like that, the charges get dropped when the evidence is suppressed.
In the United States vs. Antoine Jones case, the FBI tracked the man through a GPS device for four weeks without a warrant. A Washington, D.C., appeals court ruled that his drug conviction, and subsequent life sentence, should be overturned because of a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

Every person has a right to avoid unlawful search and seizure. Under the Fourth Amendment, a person can't be subjected to the police barreling in without a warrant or a reason to enter. This applies to vehicles and businesses, too. This important protection ensures that police don't overstep their bounds when conducting an investigation.

In this case, Jones was monitored with a GPS device for a month by agents who didn't have a warrant to do so. They also didn't have permission to install a GPS device on his car in the first place. The tracking and later arrest led to a 2008 conviction on a charge of possession and distribution of more than 50 kilograms of cocaine.

In arguing before the Supreme Court, attorneys for the government relied on old cases that dealt with the right to privacy. Justices argued, though, that technology has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. GPS devices allow police to track people much more easily today.

Justices also were concerned that ruling against Jones in this case could open up every citizen in the United States to monitoring without a warrant. Jones' lawyer argued that private information was seized by authorities while they used the GPS device. The government doesn't have the right to steal information from citizens, he argued.

This isn't just an issue with the FBI, however. Local law enforcement agencies use the devices during investigations as well. This should be concerning for all citizens. If police have the right to attach GPS devices to your vehicle without reason, that's essentially the same concept as them being able to knock down your door for no reason and start rummaging through the house.

This would be a major hit to everyone's Fourth Amendment rights and a continued assault on the privacy of citizens throughout the country. For people charged with a crime, it would allow police more access to your personal affairs and potentially create more evidence in a criminal case. Stay tuned.

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