February 2012 Archives

February 29, 2012

Violent Crimes in D.C. Reportedly Spike; Officials Urged not to Overreact

Violent crimes in Washington D.C. are said to be escalating at an alarming rate in the first couple months of the year. According to The Washington Times, the district saw a 40 percent uptick in crimes of a violent nature, including nearly twice as many gunpoint robberies in D.C. than in the first several months of 2011.

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Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys know, however, to take such reports with a grain of salt - a sentiment further underscored by researchers at the D.C. Crime Policy Institute, who note that the numbers, while accurate, are somewhat taken out of context.

All too often, alarming statistics like this are used by law enforcement to justify an increase in spending or in over-vigilant tactics in order to tamp down the swelling rate of crime - even when the numbers may not show a complete and accurate picture.

That said, here is what the Times is reporting:

That all but one police district is reporting double-digit upswings in violent crimes, according to internal documents from the Metropolitan Police Department. This reported increase follows more than 12 months of a downward bend, when the number of homicides in the district were lower than at any other point in the last 50 years. And while homicides continue to fall below the numbers reported in recent years, other crimes, such as robberies, assaults with deadly weapons and sex crimes, are said to be picking up the pace.

The greatest augmentation of crime figures happened in Capitol Hill's 1st District. In that area, crimes classified as violent soared an astounding 69 percent.

Then in the 7th District, near the Anacostia River, an hike of more than 40 percent was reported.

The district with the smallest rise in serious crimes was the 2nd. There, police reported a 4 percent rise. Still, of the 53 reported, nearly 40 were robberies, though many, which were reported in wealthier neighborhoods, are believed to be connected.

Some politicians have come forward in press conferences to note that constituents don't feel safe. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the rise in robberies could be traced back to a number of individuals snatching small electronics, namely smartphones. Robberies alone saw a reported 55 percent increase in comparison to last year.

Additionally, all types of crime, not just violent crimes, are reported to have climbed by about 25 percent.

The mayor has come under fire for not releasing the numbers soon enough, and some have even alleged city officials have played down these numbers.

But the headlines would tend to suggest the opposite is true.

It all must be taken in the appropriate context. As Washington Post Columnist Mike DeBonis points out, the situation is "hardly evidence of a crime epidemic."

As the crime policy institute's researchers noted, district leaders need to take into account the long-term trends. They further pointed out that it is easy to become alarmed when looking at stories that reflect short-term crime "trends," but those figures may not actually be reflective of the true amount of crime on our streets. In fact, a six-week analysis is not nearly enough on which to base any long-term crime policies.

Continue reading "Violent Crimes in D.C. Reportedly Spike; Officials Urged not to Overreact " »

February 23, 2012

Arrest in 1992 Washington D.C. Murder Shows Cold Cases Rife With Problems

"Cold" cases are typically defined by law enforcement as those that have sat months or years without leads or progress.

Television dramas have even been made about these types of cases -- where victims and witnesses die, laws change and authorities can try to use DNA evidence to bridge the gap between having no evidence and trying to scrape together some form of proof.
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Recently, Washington D.C. authorities arrested a man in connection with a 1992 Washington D.C. murder, The Washington Post is reporting.

Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys are always wary of these cases because so much can change between the time a crime is committed and the time an arrest is made.

For one, the laws change. If a person is charged in connection with a crime from 1992, those laws must be applied even if the arrest is made in 2012. That means that different penalties may apply and different court procedures may also be in place that could affect how the case progresses.

Secondly, time changes people's memories. It is often said that a person's memory is best at the time of the event. This makes perfect sense. When a person sees something, especially a criminal act, they are most likely to be able to describe the event right away.

So, if an arrest is made years or decades later, those memories will fade. While a person may believe they can still remember how a suspect looked or exactly how events that transpired, that may not necessarily be the case. As they watch or read news reports, talk to others about it and continuously get interviewed by authorities, their stories can change.

Because every defendant requires a fair trial for charges to be proven beyond all reasonable doubt, shaky evidence brought forth by police and prosecutors requires a critical eye from a Washington D.C. defense attorney.

In this case, a 37-year-old man from South Carolina was recently arrested in connection with a 20-year-old homicide in Washington D.C. The man was arrested on an outstanding warrant last month but was extradited to the District. He now faces a charge of felony murder in connection with the death of a 27-year-old man.

The crime occurred on May 25, 1992 on Ohio Drive SW, near the U.S. Park Police station. Officials said the victim was a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier. He was found dead in East Potomac Park.

It's unclear from the news article how police determined this man was connected to the killing. Even though DNA databases that are connected to every city and county in the country and new forensic technology improves, leading to more and more arrests, it doesn't mean the suspects will be arrested.

The state must still prove the elements beyond all reasonable doubt. Sometimes, suspects are so shocked by the arrests it leads to an abundance of plea agreements. The prosecution is sometimes thankful because an arrest and not-guilty verdict would be an embarrassment. But the defendant must consult with their Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer to determine the best strategy to attack the charges.

Continue reading "Arrest in 1992 Washington D.C. Murder Shows Cold Cases Rife With Problems" »

February 20, 2012

Washington D.C. Robberies in Subway Targeted by Police

Metro police have taken to the subway in an effort to cut down on the number of Washington D.C. robberies, and authorities are urging residents not to use a gun in self-defense.

Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys have been following this issue because citizens could end up facing a Washington D.C. gun charge if they try to protect their property.
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Thieves have continuously targeted high-end electronic devices, such as iPhones, iPads, laptops and smart phones because they can be quickly re-sold on the black market for profit. And because many people who use the Metro system carry these devices to pass time, there is an abundance of them available.

Police are hoping that an increase in patrols in the subway system as well as new technology that could disable a smartphone so that it's useless to robbers could be the answer to the growing number of thefts, The Washington Post is reporting. There have been more than 475 robberies citywide in the last year, up 70 percent from the same time last year.

While police are hoping that technology and police presence can stop the growing trend, people may be worried about more than their phones. That's because the robber may want cash, credit cards or to harm the victim.

That's when this becomes a self-defense issue. In Washington D.C., a person carrying a weapon without a license can face a charge of carrying a pistol without a license. This is a felony punishable by five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if the weapon is outside the person's home, business or property. Otherwise, it's a misdemeanor. If the person has been convicted in the past, they can face a felony charge of possession of a firearm. This could be met with a 10-year prison sentence.

A Washington D.C. think tank recently put together a report taking about 5,000 media reports of self-defense from 2003 to 2011. Even though carrying a concealed firearm in Washington D.C. is illegal, the authors made a case for it, citing about 300 examples of licensed gun users who were able to thwart robberies.

Many times, these are people who would have been victims of a crime in other parts of the country who used a weapon to defend themselves. A majority of states have a strong "stand your ground" or "castle doctrine" law in place that allows residents to defend themselves.

But the District, along with a handful of other states have either a weak self-defense law or none at all. This means criminals with a weapon can use it and the resident has no way to fight back. In fact, if they do have a gun against the law, they could end up facing criminal charges themselves.

In this case, it is important for someone facing gun charges in Washington D.C. to hire an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney immediately. Gun charges can be serious felonies, even if a person is simply trying to protect themselves.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. Robberies in Subway Targeted by Police" »

February 18, 2012

Washington Criminal Defense Watch: D.C. Robberies Lead To Two Arrests

A spate of reported armed robberies in Washington D.C. led to the arrest of two young people on multiple felony charges.

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As an experienced D.C. robbery attorney, I understand that someone facing these kind of charges is looking at a number of serious sanctions, including potentially long-term prison sentences.

A conviction can garner anywhere from two to 15 years behind bars, depending on when and where the alleged crime occurred, the age and criminal history of the suspect and other specific circumstances. There are a lot of factors to be considered, and a good D.C. criminal defense attorney can help you to navigate each of these to produce the best possible outcome for you in the case.

Even after release, a person with a robbery conviction is going to have difficulty obtaining gainful employment, not to mention he or she will be forever stamped with the stigma of being a convicted felon.

The district's code defines robbery as an instance in which someone has taken property from someone else by using some measure of force or threat of violence - essentially, a situation that may cause the victim to be afraid.

An armed robbery is much the same, except, as the name denotes, it involves the use of a weapon, such as a gun or knife. If you are convicted of an armed robbery in Washington D.C., you could be facing as many as 30 years in prison.

In this most recent case, various news media began latching onto the story when police sought help in solving a number of thefts and armed robberies.

Investigators said that a man, aged 27, and a woman, aged 24, have been arrested on charges of armed robbery. The pair are said to have stolen a number of belongings, such as cash, cell phones and clothing.

According to police, a woman who was seated at a bus stop on 11th Street NW early one Tuesday morning was confronted and robbed of her cell phone, books, a laptop and credit cards. About two hours later, a man who was walking on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE was reportedly held up, his wallet and gold ring stolen.

Investigators have told reporters that it's possible the pair were also involved in robberies that happened on river Road, Wisconsin Avenue and 4th Street.

It's not clear yet what evidence police have in this case, or whether they will end up charging these two with even more crimes. Witnesses said the two had been identified by the gray Lincoln Town car they had reportedly been driving at the time of the crimes.

Updated news reports indicating that there were additional robberies the morning after the pair were arrested. While this is not great news for the D.C. community as a whole, it does seem to indicate that these two may not be responsible for the other robberies. Law enforcement will often try to pin other crimes on an individual they have already arrested, in an effort to close cases that are open, which improves their crime statistics.

What is important to remember is that if you ever are arrested for a felony crime, never answer police questions without an attorney present. Certain interrogation techniques could lead to you unintentionally incriminating yourself and hurting your chances of an acquittal or plea bargaining from an advantage.

Continue reading "Washington Criminal Defense Watch: D.C. Robberies Lead To Two Arrests " »

February 16, 2012

D.C. Traffic Violations Plague Man with Unusual Vanity Plate

Fighting a traffic ticket in Washington D.C. can be a headache.

For one jokester, it has become a serious nightmare.

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According to media reports, the D.C. resident has racked up more than $20,000 in fines that he attributes to a clerical error, originating from his vanity license plate.

For 20 years, the man has had a vanity plate that reads "No-Tags." This has reportedly led to him receiving a ticket every time someone without a license plate is cited for a non-moving violation.

Our Washington D.C. traffic ticket law firm has seen many instances in which a person was unfairly cited by traffic attendants for non-moving violations, or by officers itching to hand out tickets.

In fact, according to the Washington Post, the district hands out more than 1.5 million traffic tickets annually. This is three times as many tickets as are issued per capita in Baltimore or Los Angeles. Consider that for just a moment. The District of Columbia has a population of about 600,000. Los Angeles, meanwhile, has a population of about 4 million people.

We have more than half as many parking tickets as Los Angeles, and yet we are less than a quarter of the size. It has become an easy revenue stream for government leaders. The actual violation is typically of little consequence.

In the vanity plates case, the man reached out to a local media outlet, after he had taken off countless days at work to have each of the tickets dismissed.

According to the new station, the man has had the "No-Tags" plate on his Chevy Avalanche for decades, and gets many smiles and good-natured ribbing from strangers. But folks at the Department of Motor Vehicles don't consider it a laughing matter.

He has been charged tens of thousands of dollars for traffic tickets in Washington D.C. that he has had nothing to do with. Any car with missing license plates or that is abandoned - he's going to get the ticket for it. Even though it has been fairly simple for him to get a dismissal on tickets that are clearly not his vehicle (different makes, models and years), any ticketed, no-tag Chevrolet is going to be his problem. Court officials have said they are unsure how the man can prove the tickets aren't his.

That has resulted in a DMV record that is so extensive, the man can't get his registration or license renewed.

This is unacceptable.

Some have asked the man why he doesn't simply change his license plate to avoid the hassle. He feels he shouldn't have to pay to have them changed, when the issue is the district's failure. He should be free to have a license plate that says whatever he wants it to, as long as it isn't profane or extremely offensive.

DMV officials said their computers aren't able to red-flag tags like his, other officials said the problem could be solved by ticketing agents writing either "xx" or the last several digits of the VIN, rather than "none" or "no tags" if someone is missing a plate.

This policy is now supposed to be in place. We will see if agents follow through.

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February 13, 2012

Alleged Underage Drinkers Targeted by Sensational Journalism in Washington D.C.

Local news reporters recently went undercover in an effort to investigate alcohol sales to underage drinkers in Washington D.C.

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The news station, 9 News Now, used a hidden camera and microphone to film and record teens who were allegedly purchasing alcohol from a local liquor store.

Teens were heard on tape saying they had purchased beer and liquor from the store for years. Some were as young as 14.

Aside from the sensationalism of the issue (calling underage drinking an "epidemic"), this type of news reporting violates a host of journalistic ethics. In the one case where a reporter actually did identify herself to one of the teens filmed, the teen had no comment. The fact that these teens were filmed without their consent or that of their parents may be an issue that a Washington D.C. juvenile defense attorney could bring up if there was ever an attempt to use those tapes as evidence in court.

Still, most underage drinking charges don't come as a result of a news investigation.
Often, a minor who is questioned or arrested for underage drinking is scared. He or she may say or do things that could be stacked against them in a criminal case.

While an arrest for underage drinking may not be seen as a huge deal, if the defendant isn't properly represented, it has the potential to inflict serious negative consequences on a young person's long-term future. Not only could he or she be forced to pay a $300 fine and undergo a 90-day suspension of driving privileges, a criminal record could affect a teen's shot at being accepted into a choice university. If the teen is already a college student, they face the possibility of academic discipline - up to and including expulsion, which would inevitably affect future employment prospects.

With a good attorney, offenses like this are often pleaded down to lesser charges that involve a diversion program or community service. Sometimes, we can even negotiate to have the charges dismissed.

Many of the alleged underage drinkers in the 9 News story were identified as having attended local high schools.

Most police agencies take a hard line on this issue because it's one that is often complained about by older taxpayers. Plus, law enforcement officials want to be seen as tough on crime, and it's an easy enough arrest to make, particularly in a college town, such as Washington D.C.

The 9 News team reported that in the case of this store, the ID cards of teens were never checked by the store owner. In some cases, though, young people under the age of 21 will try to purchase alcohol or enter a bar with a fake ID in Washington D.C.

In those instances, the charge young people are actually facing is misrepresentation of age, which is a misdemeanor. That means there is a lot an attorney can negotiate for you, including dismissal of the charges in exchange for community service and a fine.

Continue reading "Alleged Underage Drinkers Targeted by Sensational Journalism in Washington D.C." »

February 11, 2012

D.C. DUI Watch: Country Star Sings the Blues After Arrest

Country music star Randy Travis may love you forever and ever (amen!), but he's likely singing the blues right now following an arrest on public intoxication charges earlier this month.

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While details of the incident are still emerging, Mr. Travis may have been somewhat fortunate, as he could have faced a much more serious charge of driving under the influence. Reports indicate he was in his car, behind the wheel, at the time of his arrest.
Unfortunately, not everyone arrested for a DUI in Washington, D.C. has Mr. Travis' start power, which could have played some role in the lesser charges. Still, having an experienced Washington D.C. DUI defense attorney can help you haggle with prosecutors for a reduced charge. Depending on the circumstances, there may even be a chance to have the charges dismissed altogether - and you don't need to be a millionaire country musician to afford it.

In Mr. Travis' case, a number of media outlets are reporting the singer was pulled over in the parking lot of a church in North Texas, where police found him in front of the wheel. It's not clear whether the keys were in the ignition or if the car was even on.
Officers at the scene reported Mr. Travis, 52, smelled strongly of alcohol, and a bottle of wine was on the seat next to him.

He reportedly stumbled out of the car. When officers tried to speak to him, they said his speech was slurred. And when they asked for his driver's license, he fumbled trying to find it.

What may be important to consider here is that some of Mr. Travis' actions could be explained by nerves. It's not difficult to understand why someone would be anxious if he knew reports of an arrest would be published worldwide. Our Washington D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that while the average Joe or Jane may not have to contend with global press coverage of the incident, he or she could face serious and irreparable consequences if the news reaches an employer.

Travis was reported to have told the officers at the time that he and his wife had gotten into an argument, and he was trying to get home following a Super Bowl party. The fact that he pulled over and wasn't actually driving when officers started their investigation appeared to have worked at least somewhat in his favor, as evidenced by the lesser charge.

The penalties for a public intoxication charge, which is a misdemeanor, are typically much less severe than those for a Washington D.C. DWI. If you are convicted of a public intoxication charge, you could face up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Officers also have the option, though, to simply issue a citation and drop you off either at home or a nearby detoxification center.

A DWI or DUI, on the other hand, is going to bring a harsher punishment. For the first offense, you will face up to 90 days in jail and hundreds of dollars in fines, as well as license revocation for six months. If you are convicted of DUI a second time, you'll be facing fines of up to $5,000 and up to an entire year behind bars, as well as an additional 30 days of mandatory community service. Plus, you would lose your license for an entire year. Penalties would double on the second and any subsequent offenses.
All of these could seriously impact your wallet, personal relationships, employment and freedom.

That's why it's important that the first call you make following an arrest needs to be to your attorney.

Continue reading "D.C. DUI Watch: Country Star Sings the Blues After Arrest" »

February 4, 2012

Occupy D.C. Protesters Vow To Stay in McPherson Square

The Occupy D.C. protest movement is still going strong, even though news reports have faded off in recent months.

As the news agencies turn their attention toward the political season, the Occupy movement has lost some steam in news coverage, but not in effort. There are still many people in many cities who are trying to make a difference and improve our country. Yet, for many people, these protests have led to legal problems.megaphone.bmp
Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers have scoffed at the way city leaders and police have treated these people -- the same people whose rights they are sworn to uphold. Some have been beaten and others have simply been treated unfairly. Many cases have involved juveniles charges in Washington D.C., while others are young adults in or just out of college.

According to a recent story by Agence France-Presse, protesters have said the movement "will never die," vowing to ensure the people in power still feel their pressure.

Some protesters have said that if city officials attempt to evict them from encampments, they will simply grow, as it will show that authorities are trying to abuse their power. Outrage over economic inequities and power over everyday citizens is what has led the protests to go strong now since October.

Groups have since grown to Occupy DC, Occupy Washington and Occupy Congress, among others. Groups are still trying to remain strong despite city leaders trying to evict protest camps nationwide.

While eviction is a major concern for protesters, it isn't the only issue they face. Criminal charges have been been levied against Occupy protesters in D.C. and in other cities across the nation. This is another tactic that police and others have used as a way to intimidate people into leaving.

While this may cause the movement to expand, it also has worked to disrupt many lives. While a majority of the charges have been misdemeanor charges in Washington D.C., they still can cause major problems. A criminal record for a high school student trying to get into college can be devastating. A college graduate who is trying to make their voice heard could end up with fewer job and career prospects if they are arrested and convicted.

That's why fighting these charges, regardless of how minor they may seem, is important. Job applications often ask about convictions, even for misdemeanor charges. If a person answers yes, they could end up being eliminated from many job opportunities or promotion chances.

While the movement is powerful and necessary, the protesters themselves must ensure that they have sound legal representation if they are in trouble with the law. Peaceful protests are allowed by law and law enforcement should respect that. Many of the arrests made have been on false pretenses and can be cleared up by prosecutors dropping the cases.

But even an arrest can be damaging and police are using their power to intimidate, in many cases. Make sure your voice is heard and you protest peacefully. But if officers trying to break it up through unlawful arrests, contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer immediately. You have rights and they must be respected.

Continue reading "Occupy D.C. Protesters Vow To Stay in McPherson Square" »

February 3, 2012

Two Metro Employees Charged In Washington D.C. Theft Case

Two transit employees were recently arrested and charged with Washington D.C. theft after authorities allege they stole thousands of dollars in fares, The Washington Post reports.

Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize that this will be a high profile media case because it involves alleged theft from public funds. Just because a person has been arrested, it doesn't mean they are guilty of the charges.
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Theft charges, especially Washington D.C. white collar crimes, can lead to serious prison time. White collar crimes are typically financially motivated crimes that involved fraud or schemes to take money that is placed into a person's control.

In this case, law enforcement is saying, a man and his supervisor devised a scheme where they would make the rounds to collect cash from fare machines. The men allegedly would hide a portion of the money a few hundreds yards from their building. At the end of the day, they would meet up and split the profits.

According to The Washington Post, the two men now face federal charges of conspiracy to commit theft. The two men allegedly have been involved in the scam since 2010, according to court documents. Both face up to five years in a federal prison.

Surveillance video and a confidential informant led to the arrests. The newspaper reports that one of the men used the money to buy lottery tickets, which have won him nearly $63,000 in the last four years.

The news report states that it's unclear how much has been stolen. Prosecutors say they have found $150,000 in "unexplained" money being deposited into one of the man's bank account since 2008. Law enforcement agencies are continuing their investigation.

The men allegedly made arrangements to work on the same shift, on rail lines in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The men allegedly hid bags of cash at a nearby parking lot and the men would show up later, separately, to collect their portions. Investigators used Global Positioning System devices to track their vehicles.

These are major allegations, but they bring up important questions. In cases where law enforcement officers attempt to use confidential informants, there should always be scrutiny of those witnesses. In many cases, the people used by police to make arrests are people who have already been arrested.

They agree to plea deals with less prison time or fewer sanctions. In exchange, they are willing to testify to anything the government wants them to say. When your testimony is bought with your liberty, you may be more than willing to help the people in power.

White collar crimes often are complex schemes that have gone on for years and years. But authorities often don't have all the facts when they make arrests. Often, they are studying records for years to determine if they have enough evidence to file charges. Sometimes, they do. Other times, however, they fall short of an acceptable standard. That may not stop them from filing charges, however.

Fight these charges if you are ensnared in some kind of Washington D.C. white collar crime. Don't allow the government to use its power to soil your name. These charges are complicated and require a strong defense.

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