January 2012 Archives

January 27, 2012

Proposed Washington D.C. "Prostitution-Free Zone" Isn't Going to Fly

Activists are protesting, officials believe it is unconstitutional and Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers fully believe that the proposed "prostitution-free zones" will be struck down because they are far too broad and will open up the District to many legal challenges.

The controversial bill that would allow local police officers to set up what they deem prostitution-free zones was recently heard by council members. It would give police the power to detain and arrest people they suspect are engaged in street prostitution.
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This bill is being proposed in response to the rise of prostitution arrests in Washington D.C. WTOP reported last fall. While arrest numbers are down, prostitution isn't.

But how could this law possibly be legal? First of all, it would give police the power to detain and arrest people with little proof that a crime was committed. If you are walking down the street in the wrong part of town or have a conversation with someone in the early hours of the morning, all of a sudden you're considered a John. What happens if you are a woman walking down the street late at night? Does that automatically make you a prostitute if you're in one of these "zones?"

Gay activists said they are planning to fight the bill, saying that it allows police to target some sectors of the community, but that takes away from the real crime that is going on throughout the District, WAMU is reporting.

On the other hand, The Washington Post reports that the D.C. Attorney General's Office recently said that the proposed bill is likely unconstitutional, which raises doubts that the council will be able to act on this proposal anyway.

In these zones, police can make arrests for up to 24 consecutive days if two or more people congregate in certain neighborhoods and ignore orders to disperse. That means that anyone hanging out, playing basketball, talking, or otherwise socializing can be arrested under these overly broad rules.

Based on the backlash, some believe that making these temporary zones permanent or expanding them is unlikely. People have a right to loiter so long as they are not intending to commit a crime.

Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers are hopeful that council members come to their senses and recognize the problems that this law makes for its residents. Combating prostitution is a novel idea, but doing so by trampling on individual rights isn't going to happen.

Being charged with soliciting for sex or being a prostitute can bring great shame to a person and their family. Not only that, it can result in up to 90 days in jail and $500 in fines for a first-time offender. Minimizing the embarrassment of an arrest, which can include work and family problems, is often a top priority. A lawyer can work toward a quick and less-damaging resolution if the defendant acts quickly.

Continue reading "Proposed Washington D.C. "Prostitution-Free Zone" Isn't Going to Fly" »

January 24, 2012

Washington D.C. DUI Manslaughter Charges Keep Man In Jail Without Bail

A man who now faces DUI manslaughter charges in Washington D.C. is being held in jail without the option of posting bail, The Washington Post is reporting.

In Washington D.C., a driver who is involved in a fatal accident can be charged with two types of crimes. First, they may be charged with vehicular manslaughter or negligent homicide. The maximum penalty for vehicular manslaughter is up to 30 years in prison, while negligent homicide is up to five years.
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Charges of DUI in Washington D.C. that result in an accidental death are more likely to be filed as negligent homicide. But Washington D.C. DWI attorneys recognize that regardless of which charge a person faces, they are serious.

The death of a person is always going to bring great scrutiny by law enforcement officers, whether it was based on an accident or negligence. According to District of Columbia statutes 50-2203.01, negligent homicide is charged when a person operates a vehicle in a "careless, reckless or negligent manner" that causes the death of another. That includes pedestrians.

In this case, the defendant was charged with killing an 8-year-old boy in Alexandria, Virginia. During a court hearing, the man was ordered held without bail.

The Washington Post reports that the man's blood-alcohol level was .15, nearly two times the legal limit, during the accident, which happened around 2:30 p.m. one recent Sunday afternoon. The man allegedly admitted to police that he had been drinking and he failed several field sobriety tests.

The 22-year-old was driving a sedan near I-395 when he allegedly hopped a curb, traveled across some grass and then reportedly hit two pedestrians who were walking. An 8-year-old boy, who was walking with his mother, was killed. His mother now is recovering from two broken legs and a broken pelvis.

The defendant is scheduled to appear back in court in February. He faces charges of manslaughter, felonious bodily injury as a result of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and driving without a license. Based on Virginia law, the man could face between 1 and 20 years on the manslaughter charge.

There are times when an accident is simply that -- an accident. But when a person is seriously injured or killed, law enforcement officers will be looking to blame someone.

Plenty of news stories have laid out examples of cases where two drivers collide and the one who has some alcohol in their system now faces a major felony charge. But police must fully investigate the details of the case. Accidents happen every day when two sober drivers are involved, so just because one may have been drinking or their blood-alcohol level is above the legal limit doesn't mean they are guilty of causing the crash.

In fact, ABC News recently reported that a Florida man is suing the victim of a 2007 crash even though he has already pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter. He claims he entered the plea because he faced a possible life sentence, but believes the man who died as a result of an accident was to blame.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. DUI Manslaughter Charges Keep Man In Jail Without Bail" »

January 19, 2012

Fifth Amendment Allows For Silence, But D.C. Police Lie To Get People to Talk

Police detectives will do anything to try to get a person to confess to a crime, even if the suspect isn't responsible for what is being alleged.

Luckily, the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution allows for silence. This means no person is required to talk to police -- ever. Whether it's a Washington D.C. drug crime or an assault charge, no person has to speak to detectives.
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Perhaps most important to remember is that going at this alone is a bad idea. A defendant should always, without exception, be represented by a Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney when police are questioning him or her regarding a crime. These detectives will try many tactics to try to get a confession, but the key is to resist. Never speak to the police without a lawyer by your side.

Some people believe they can outsmart the police. It's highly unlikely because investigators will typically gang up on a suspect, with two officers in one interrogation room. One will be asking questions and the other will be taking notes or observing the suspect. They are trained to tell when a person is lying and they are able to check with their notes facts that the suspect tells them and determine whether that meshes with other information they've gathered.

The most popular tactic that police officers use with suspects is lying. Seems simple, but they are legally allowed to lie to suspects to try to get them to confess. They can do this in a variety of ways. They could tell the suspect that someone gave the officers facts putting them at the scene or committing the crime. The suspect then wants to explain their side of the story.

Metropolitan police often will lie to suspects, promising they could be put into some type of witness protection program, though it's highly unlikely that department or other local law enforcement agencies has a budget to put people into a home for protection. These officers get yearly training on how best to lie and exploit suspects.

But if an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer is sitting in the interrogation room next to the suspect, the police know they aren't going to be successful. The attorney likely has heard all the lies before and knows how these detectives operate. Alone, a suspect is susceptible. Armed with a lawyer, the whole atmosphere changes.

Police are required to provide what are called Miranda warnings to people they are placing under arrest. Most people are familiar with these rights from television police shows, where officers state, "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law..."

Some people breeze through these and instantly waive their rights. But re-read the words. Every person has a right to remain silent. You don't have to speak. No one can force you to speak. Any officer who says "You have to tell us your side," or "This is your only chance to talk -- I can't help you if you don't talk to me," is lying.

And the second part of that is true, as well. Anything you say is going to be recorded. The officer is taking notes and he or she will testify against you at trial. No matter what a suspect says, police will twist it to fit the set of facts they believe they have. It's rarely going to work out for the suspect.

The two things to take away from this is to always be represented by a lawyer during questioning. Being in the interrogation room alone is never going to be beneficial to a suspect. Second, don't make a statement alone. There may be times when talking to police is advantageous, but only after consulting with a Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney.

Continue reading "Fifth Amendment Allows For Silence, But D.C. Police Lie To Get People to Talk" »

January 18, 2012

On Assault with Intent to Kill and Other Serious Washington, DC Felonies

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles serious felonies, I often get calls from wives, girlfriends, or parents of people charged with assault with intent to kill (AWIK), assault with a dangerous weapon (ADW), and other similar charges. Make no mistake, these are very serious charges and must be handled quickly and properly to help get the best possible result for your loved one.Hospital.jpg

The first thing to think about is if you can get him out of jail before trial. Let's look at the process of being held on a serious felony in Washington, DC. After being taken to a police station and booked, he will be transferred to the Metropolitan Police Department (MDP) Central Cellblock (CCB). The CCB is located underneath MDP headquarters at 300 Indiana Avenue. If the defendant has been processed into the CCB before 10:00am on a weekday, he will make the "felony cutoff" and be taken to Superior Court and held in the US Marshal's cellblock until 2:00pm. On a weekend, it may be much earlier in the day.

The next step is to go to courtroom C-10 for presentment. This is when the attorney you hire will plead not guilty, waive a formal reading of the charges, request initial discovery, and ask that the defendant be release on his personal promise to appear at the next court date. If the defendant is charged with AWIK, or ADW, there is very little chance of being released at this point. The presentment judge will almost certainly place a hold on the defendant and he will be taken to DC jail until the next court date for a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing does offer a real chance to get the defendant released, placed in a halfway house, or given an ankle bracelet (put on the box). If your attorney makes the proper arguments and the facts are in your favor, this is basically the only chance to get released before trial. If it doesn't happen at the preliminary hearing, the defendant will probably be held for the next 100 days. If you are going to hire a private attorney to represent your loved one on DC felony charge, you should do so as soon as possible, so that he can help at the preliminary hearing.

Regardless of release conditions, the case will be considered a Felony One and will be assigned to an experienced prosecutor who will have a lot of recourses to conduct an investigation and find evidence to help convict the defendant. It is important for the attorney you hire to have a good investigator of his own who can help do the same for you and find out all of the problems with the government's case. These cases must be handled carefully so that the best result can be achieved. Always remember that an arrest is not a conviction.

January 16, 2012

Man Sentenced to 100 Years in Prison on Washington D.C. Gun Charges

A recent case out of Maryland shows just how serious Washington D.C. gun charges can be as a Baltimore man was recently sentenced to 100 years in prison on a variety of charges.

Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers see people every week who are facing gun charges and often they accompany other charges, including drug charges or other offenses.
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Police often like to compile charges to give the prosecution an advantage at trial. The more charges a defendant faces, the more difficult the plea negotiations are. In most areas of the country, more than 95 percent of all cases end in a plea. There are times when a trial is appropriate, but there is a gamble involved.

So, if a defendant faces drug charges and a gun is found nearby, police may try to tie that to the drug crime. If a person is charged with robbery and a vehicle is pulled over and there is a gun inside, detectives may try to say the person possessed a gun during the robbery, even if no one saw it.

When guns are added to the mix of criminal activity, penalties can increase. Washington D.C. political leaders have been trying to take away gun owners' rights for years and the police try to make possessing a weapon into a crime.

According to Metropolitan Police Department statistics, officers recovered 1,919 weapons in 2011, which is slightly down from years past:

2012 (through January 10): 53
2011: 1,919
2010: 2,213
2009: 2,321
2008: 2,534
207: 2,304

The total for 2011 was the lowest in nearly a decade. It's unclear whether this means fewer weapons are being used in crimes or if police aren't doing as much enforcement as they have in the past.

According to The Sun, the 28-year-old D.C. man was recently sentenced to 100 years in prison for 11 felonies, including up to 50 burglaries and nine home invasions throughout Prince George's County.

The man was accused of molesting a 17-year-old girl and still faces charges of murder in a 2009 slaying of a mother and daughter. Authorities say the man would pick homes where he assumed the homeowners were wealthy and he would cut phone lines and listen to police scanners in committing his home invasions, The Washington Post reports.

Police allege that he used guns in his crimes and attempted to illegally sell them, getting the attention of the Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. After obtaining search warrants, police say the man, who worked for UPS and was pursuing several college degrees, went from nothing more than a speeding ticket to burglary, home invasion robberies and now he's accused of murder.

While this defendant faced many charges aside from gun charges, no doubt the allegations of using weapons increased the potential penalties he faced. He has a long road ahead as he faces charges for two separate murders.

Continue reading "Man Sentenced to 100 Years in Prison on Washington D.C. Gun Charges" »

January 12, 2012

Washington D.C. Residential Burglaries On the Rise, Report Says

A recent increase in residential burglaries in the Washington D.C. and Maryland areas has put local police and residents on alert, the Chevy Chase Patch is reporting.

A Washington D.C. burglary can be a terrifying situation for a homeowner who comes home to find their possessions gone, home invaded and life turned upside down. A person who gets wrapped up in a burglary charge faces an equally terrifying situation.
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Our Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers have seen many examples of people arrested for a residential burglary simply for being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

One common way law enforcement officers try to identify the person responsible for a house break-in is through eyewitness testimony or through the testimony of a co-defendant. Studies have shown that people are inherently unreliable when it comes to accurately identifying what a person looks like. And a snitch will say anything. New Jersey court officials recently put restrictions on eyewitness testimony because they reversed so many convictions based on testimony that was flawed or later found to be wrong.

So, this often leads to a person who happened to be walking nearby being considered a suspect. In sloppy police cases, a person may be arrested simply for being around a victim's house at the wrong time.

In other situations, friends may pile in a car and go for a joyride or out to have some fun when the car gets pulled over. Perhaps the driver had committed a burglary hours earlier and didn't tell the friends. If witnesses said several people were in the burglarized house, all of a sudden, the police have a car-full of suspects. This type of situation has happened more than you might think.

Let's hope police investigating the recent string of burglaries in the Bethesda, Chevy Chase and North Bethesda area don't make the same mistakes. The Patch reports that 24 burglaries were reported in the second district in December and January, through January 5.

Potomac reports that there have also been a higher number of burglaries there than expected, as residents have decided to form a public safety coalition to help. View this as a whole gaggle of potentially unreliable witnesses that are teaming up. Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police have jurisdiction over several recent Western Avenue burglaries in the last month as well.

Among the second district crimes, police say two men knocked on several doors before trying to go in through a side window. In one case, the men were scared off by a person inside. A few hours later, nearby, police believe the same men unsuccessfully tried to burglarize another house.

In another incident, police say a man was driving a blue Chevrolet near a house that was burglarized and in two other incidents a navy blue car was described.

In a Bethesda burglary, a man was trying to get into a white car that was parked in the driveway of the victim's home. The same car was said to be seen in other recent burglary attempts.

In all three incidents, witnesses provided very weak descriptions of the alleged suspects and white cars and blue cars are very common throughout the area. Police should have better evidence than a shade of color on a car and a 20-year age range in suspects before making arrests for these serious charges.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. Residential Burglaries On the Rise, Report Says" »

January 10, 2012

Assaults in Washington D.C. Pick Up As It Gets Colder: What You Need to Know

As we hit January in Washington D.C., college students are back to class and the temperature will continue to drop. A combination of these factors and others usually means people are hitting up the local bars and spending long nights bundled up indoors.

There are times when a long night of drinking and reveling with friends can lead to some serious trouble with the law. Being charged with assault in Washington D.C. can not only derail a college education or a career, but it can lead to penalties and fines and fees and a headache.
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Our Washington D.C. assault defense lawyers are prepared to handle these types of cases because we recognize that a person shouldn't have to bear the burden of one mistake for the rest of their lives. Mistakes happen and accidents happen, but sometimes overzealous police officers make a mountain out of a molehill not taking into consideration the harm that can do to the suspect.

In Washington D.C., there are different forms of assault charges and the penalties vary greatly depending on which level of charge the person faces. They can range from misdemeanors to felonies and can be punishable with minor jail time or serious prison time. Each case varies based on its individual facts.

-A simply assault is something as minor as a threat, which tends to happen every day. In most cases, people disregard it and everyone moves on with their lives. In some cases, people press charges and that can lead to 180 days in custody and/or a $1,000 fine.

-Assault with significant injury is a felony and is punishable by up to three years in prison and a $3,000 fine. Pretty self explanatory.

-Aggravated assault. This is another felony and when the scale of penalties increases to 10 years plus a $10,000 fine. An attempted aggravated assault cuts those penalties in half. The law states that if a person acts intentionally, purposefully or with a disregard for human life and causes serious injury, they face this charge.

-Armed aggravated assault. An aggravated assault while armed with a weapon can lead to up to 15 years in prison.

-Assault with a dangerous or deadly weapon. This is another serious assault charge on the books in Washington D.C. If a person is carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon while assaulting someone, they can be sent to prison for 10 years.

None of these charges are minor and you can imagine they happen fairly frequently in the District's bar areas. You've probably seen some of these go down in the early hours of the day at your local watering hole.

But there are defenses to these charges, including self-defense and weak eyewitness accounts, that can go a long way toward beating the charges or getting them dropped. Every case is different, but what doesn't change is the need and requirement for a suspect to have an experienced and knowledgeable Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney helping them throughout their court case.

Continue reading "Assaults in Washington D.C. Pick Up As It Gets Colder: What You Need to Know" »

January 6, 2012

Property Crimes in D.C.: Larceny, Robbery, Burglary, Shoplifting, Fraud (Happy New Year!)

There will be no shortage of D.C. theft crimes making their way through the court system this month. There is typically an uptick of home burglaries during the holidays. Shoplifting, theft and credit card fraud allegations are also common. January signals the start of those cases through the court system.

A D.C. criminal defense attorney should be consulted in each of these cases. In many instances, a sound defense can be built. In all cases, a conviction can lead to long-term consequences, including an inability to hold certain jobs or work in certain professions. Nobody wants to be labeled a thief. 657836_forced_entry.jpg

The LakeRidge-OccoquanPatch is reporting police arrested two D.C. men, ages 23 and 24, after a report of a burglary in progress in the area of Shady River Court. Police stopped their vehicle near Potomac Plaza, based on a description provided by witnesses. The men are facing charges of burglary, grand larceny and credit card larceny.

Now, unless the defendants were driving a pink hearse -- EVEN if the defendants were driving a pink hearse -- an experienced defense attorney will challenge probable cause for the traffic stop. Eyewitness testimony is notoriously unreliable. "Blue car" is not going to be sufficient probable cause to initiate a traffic stop, let alone to conduct a search. Still, police did search the vehicle and recovered items valued at $1,600 that are believed to have been stolen.


D.C. Theft Charges

Under D.C. law, theft of items valued at more than $1,000 is first-degree theft and is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Second-degree theft is theft of items valued at less than $1,000 and is punishable by up to six months in jail. Your defense attorney may seek to reduce a first-degree theft charge by challenging the value of the items stolen, or by contesting a move by law enforcement to combine the value of two or more items or occurrences in order to justify a charge of theft in the first degree.

D.C. Burglary Charges

First-Degree Burglary: Involves breaking and entering and theft of items from an occupied home. Punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Second-Degree Burglary: Breaking and entering and theft from an unoccupied dwelling. Punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

D.C. Robbery Charges

Robbery is defined as the taking of the property of another by force or by threat of force and can include stealthy seizure or snatching. It is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Armed robbery involving a gun or other dangerous weapon is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

Other theft crimes in D.C.

-Fraud
-Forgery
-Shoplifting
-Purse Snatching
-Mail or Wire Fraud
-Credit Card Fraud
-Auto Theft
-Carjacking
-Larceny

Each case is unique and a defense must be built after thorough review of the facts and circumstances. Part of any defense is making sure the defendant is facing the right charge, given the alleged facts. For instance, a misdemeanor trespass should not be filed as a burglary, or a burglary as a robbery. Receiving stolen property is another charge that if often abused by law enforcement -- frequently as an attempt to get a defendant to make incriminating statements against another.

Seeking a D.C. defense lawyer with the knowledge and experience to defend your rights may keep you out of jail and may keep a theft conviction off your permanent record.

Continue reading "Property Crimes in D.C.: Larceny, Robbery, Burglary, Shoplifting, Fraud (Happy New Year!)" »

January 5, 2012

D.C. Police Chases often Result in Serious Traffic Charges

A 54-year-old local man is facing a slew of charges, including attempted capital murder of a police officer, after a car chase that led to a fiery crash. This case illustrates an age-old truism: Police can charge you with whatever they want. What matters is what you are convicted of in a court of law. If you are facing motor-vehicle charges, contact a D.C. traffic defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Car chases are instigated by police. Yet when serious or fatal accidents occur as a result, a defendant can face a lifetime of charges. What's worse, passengers in the vehicle -- often little more than captives to a driver's decision to flee -- may also be charged with serious felony crimes. 937355_car_chase.jpg

Police report the D.C. man was driving a black sedan on I-95 about 1 a.m. when he drove off the road and into a cement Jersey wall before continuing on. The driver allegedly failed to stop for the trooper before driving into the rest area at the 154 mile marker near Dumfries. The vehicle was driven into a ditch and caught fire and police say the driver pulled a gun when the officer attempted to pull him from the car.

The driver then complied with the trooper's demands to put the gun down and surrendered without further incident. Might the defendant simply have been attempting to get rid of the gun, or alert the officer to its presence, as he was fleeing a burning vehicle?

In the wake of the incident, police have charged him with driving under the influence of drugs, illegal possession of Oxycontin, hit-and-run, reckless driving, attempting to elude a police officer, possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The News & Messenger also reports the 54-year-old man faces an attempted capital murder charge.

This is classic. The government has hit the defendant with enough charges to make an upcoming plea offer sound reasonable in comparison. If you are facing attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, pleading guilty to DUI and possession of a firearm by a felon sounds like a nice break. Each case is unique, but the government's first offer is rarely it's best offer. Speaking to a qualified D.C. criminal defense attorney is your best option. Often your best defense is an aggressive offense.

While the presence of the handgun complicates this case, it is otherwise not unique when it comes to charges defendants face after a police chase.

Other common traffic-related charges in D.C. include:

-Criminal speeding

-Operating after Suspended License (OAS)

-Operating after Revoked License (OAR)

-Auto Theft

-Carjacking

-Aggravated assault/Assault with a deadly weapon

-Vehicular manslaughter

Cases involving very serious or fatal injuries are always serious and can lead to manslaughter charges even when the victim is a passenger in the at-fault driver's vehicle. But even when an accident does not occur, refusing to stop for law enforcement draws their ire. Consequently, defendants are often charged with just about every conceivable crime officers at the scene can dream up.

Defense of those charges begins when you call an experienced defense attorney. Those who fail to properly defend themselves, can end up facing needless time behind bars.

Continue reading "D.C. Police Chases often Result in Serious Traffic Charges" »