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.

Continue reading "Two Metro Employees Charged In Washington D.C. Theft Case" »

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" »

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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