June 14, 2013

D.C. Child Abuse Claim Proves False, Couple Continues to Pay

The young mother of twin baby girls was changing the diaper of one when she heard a thud from across the room. She turned to see that her other 8-month-old daughter, who had been playing nearby, had fallen and bumped her head.
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The child didn't have any bumps and bruises, but she grew concerned when the girl began to act fussy and started throwing up. She eventually wound up in the hospital, but recovered quickly.

Still, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers understand the two girls were promptly removed from their parents' home and shoved into foster care. The police launched an investigation and the parents were placed on the city's suspected child-abusers registry.

Police never found any evidence of abuse and no arrests were ever made. Still, the case is not closed for the couple. That was nearly six years ago, and the fight continues, most recently with the couple having filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Child and Family Services Agency for the way it has handled the case.

The primary reason CFSA got involved was because the girl's injuries from that fall included a retinal hemorrhage. That is consistent with an injury that one might see from shaken baby syndrome.

But shaken baby syndrome is a condition that has been broadly applied in criminal investigations launched when children have become injured or, worse, have died. However, many of the symptoms that accompany shaken baby syndrome are also consistent with other childhood injuries and conditions - for example, falling and bumping one's head. This is something children do all the time.

Certainly, there is a need to protect children from parents or caregivers who are abusive or neglectful. However, child protection agencies, law enforcement and prosecutors have become overzealous with their application of the law. In some cases, convictions were secured and parents were sent to prison - only to have it later revealed that the child was injured or died from other causes.

The couple in this case say that while they understand the need for an initial investigation, child service workers and at, first, law enforcement seemed to ignore the fact that there was no evidence whatsoever that they had harmed their child or to show that they were a threat to their other daughter.

D.C. has a very broad statute with regard to what constitutes as child abuse or neglect. The standard of proof in these cases is a preponderance of the evidence. That is, your child can be removed from your home without authorities having to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you harmed him or her.

D.C. Code 16-2301 holds that abuse should be defined as the infliction of mental or physical injury on a child or the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child. A parent may discipline his or her child, but that discipline may not include:


  • Biting, cutting or burning a child;

  • Striking a child with a closed fist;

  • Inflicting injury to the child by kicking, throwing or shaking the child;

  • Any non-accidental injury to a child younger than 18 months;

  • Taking any action that could interfere with a child's breathing;

  • Threatening or using a dangerous weapon on a child.


Cases involving infants are particularly difficult because they are generally unable to communicate how their injuries occurred. That means you will need a strong legal advocate on your side.

Continue reading "D.C. Child Abuse Claim Proves False, Couple Continues to Pay" »

June 6, 2013

D.C. Statutory Rape Convictions Have Severe Penalties

The issue of statutory rape is one that has been cropping up throughout the country in a number of headline-grabbing scenarios, prompting some advocates to urge a a closer look at these laws and whether they may be too harsh.

In D.C., it's illegal for anyone who is in adult (over the age of 18) to have sex with anyone who is 14 or younger.
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If you are arrested for statutory rape in D.C., you may be facing as many as 30 years behind bars.

This is the case even if the relationship was consensual and you were 17 when the relationship started, but have since turned 18 and your girlfriend or boyfriend has not yet turned 15.

That's exactly what is happening right now in Florida, in the case of an 18-year-old girl who is facing two felony counts of lewd lascivious battery of a child. The two teens knew each other from school and were even on the same basketball team. But the minute the older teen turned 18, any sexual contact between the two was considered illegal.

The primary reason this case has gained so much attention is because the two teens in this case were both females, prompting LGBT advocates to decry the fact that the parents only pressed charges because they were upset their daughter had engaged in lesbian activity.

The older girl was kicked off the team, expelled from school and faces up to 15 years in prison. She rejected a plea deal that would have forced her plead guilty to a lesser offense and serve two years of house arrest.

Meanwhile in Mississippi, lawmakers have passed a measure that will require both doctors and midwives to save the umbilical cord blood from babies born to mothers who are younger than 16. From there, officials will analyze the samples and attempt to identify the father of the baby through the state's DNA database.

(You may also be interested to know that the U.S. Supreme Court recently broadened the rights of law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from those arrested for serious crimes, meaning we'll likely be seeing more of these statutory rape cases as well.)

The goal, state lawmakers say, is to deter men over the age of 21 from having sex with girls 16 and younger.

But that leaves out the argument that many of these teens consented to these acts. They do not consider themselves victims and they never reported a crime, and in many cases, neither have their parents.

Mississippi's statutory rape law is a bit stricter than D.C.'s, allowing that any sexual contact occurring between those with an age difference of more than three years and a child under the age of 16 is a criminally prosecutable offense.

The Mississippi law is also rife with other problems. For example, there is the issue of jurisdiction, particularly if the "victim" isn't cooperating. Prosecutors would have to determine where the conception occurred before charges will be filed.

Continue reading "D.C. Statutory Rape Convictions Have Severe Penalties" »

June 4, 2013

Arrested in D.C.? Police Can Take Your DNA, Court Says

Four years ago, a man was innocuously arrested on assault charges.

Per Maryland law, because the charge was a felony, the suspect was forced to submit a DNA sample through a cheek swab. That resulted in a hit on a cold case rape from six years earlier. He was convicted, but later appealed on the basis that police had no right to take his DNA in the first place.
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However, the U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled otherwise. The split, 5-4 ruling handed down in Maryland v. King means that if you are arrested in D.C. for either a felony or other serious crime, the police are permitted to collect your DNA involuntarily.

Never mind that you haven't been convicted of a crime. Never mind that there's a chance you're actually innocent.

There were already 28 states that had approved of this practice in some form or another, though the latitude granted to police varied slightly. Some states have allowed it only in cases where someone was arrested for certain types of felonies. Others allowed it for all felony arrests and still others allowed it for all felony arrests plus certain types of misdemeanors.

However, D.C. hadn't passed any such legislation, so this will be new for suspects. The precedent set by the court allows for all suspects in "serious" crimes, which we have no doubt will be broadly interpreted by law enforcement.

In an uncharacteristic break from his conservative colleagues, Justice Antonin Scalia, in voicing dissent, stated that while this practice may serve to ultimately solve more crimes, the same could be accomplished by requiring airplane passengers or driver's license recipients to submit to such a test. Either way, Fourth Amendment rights are out the window.

In fact, Maryland's Attorney General, Doug Gansler, conceded that there was nothing currently in the law that would bar police officials from collecting DNA from people arrested for non-violent, misdemeanor offenses.

If the ultimate goal is evidence collection, what the court has essentially done is sanction it without a warrant and without even probable cause.

The majority ruled that the goal of DNA testing during the police booking process is to obtain affirmative identification of the suspect, similar to how we collect fingerprints and snap a mugshot.

That may be useful in a small number of instances, but the reality is, it's used for crime-solving. As such, the potential for Fourth Amendment violations are rife.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a "gaping new exception" to the Fourth Amendment. The reasoning is this: It's been determined that police can't search for evidence of a crime without individualized suspicion. DNA collection is a kind of search - something upon which all nine justices agreed. Contrary to the majority's opinion, the goal of DNA collection is solving unsolved cases.

In using the DNA this way, police are bypassing those constitutional protections. It provides police with the option of using an arrest as a fishing expedition. Although this decision will make it tougher for defendants to suppress evidence obtained this way, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers doubt this is the last legal protest we'll hear on this issue.

Continue reading "Arrested in D.C.? Police Can Take Your DNA, Court Says " »

May 29, 2013

Nurse Arrested for Theft of Painkillers at Alexandria Rehab

A nurse working in Virginia is facing federal charges after officials say she stole medications from her employer and then attempted to sell them on the streets.
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Our D.C. drug crime defense lawyers know that cases like this are not as rare as one might think.

Registered nurses go through intensive training to work long hours, sometimes during odd shifts, and the schedule often precipitates addiction.

The American Nurses Association estimates that about 1 out of every 10 nurses are dependent on drugs. This is roughly in line with the national average. However, nurses are in closer proximity to a smorgasbord of high-powered substances every time they go to work. The temptation often proves too difficult for someone battling an addiction to overcome. Nurses who work in specialty areas - critical care, oncology, psychiatry and anesthesia - are believed to have higher rates of substance abuse due to the intense physical and emotional demands, as well as the easy accessibility of controlled substances.

No mention of addiction is made in the Washington Post article about the Gainesville Health & Rehabilitation Center nurse who is accused of stealing the painkillers, though it's an obvious inference.

According to reports, the 42-year-old is alleged to have placed orders for Percocet and Oxycodone for her patients. The charts of those patients would show that the drugs had been administered. However, her patients would later complain to other staffers that they had never received their medications.

Administrators began to spot a pattern and allege such reports were only being made while she was on duty.

Other employees began to maintain separate records, due to these suspicions. In all, authorities say that some 315 Oxycodone pills and 435 Percocet pills went missing while under her watch over the summer of last year.

A single pill can be sold on the street for anywhere from $40 to $80.

She was subsequently arrested and later indicted on one count of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.

However, the nurse's defense attorney slammed the prosecution's case, saying it has significant holes in it. The government has the duty to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, she said, adding, "All I'm seeing is doubt."

The attorney couldn't elaborate on the specifics, but said said her client intends to fight the charges.

The nurse has since quit her position at the facility.

Nurses who are arrested for drug crimes, particularly when those alleged actions somehow involve the workplace, are at risk not only for criminal prosecution and the potential loss of a job, but also sanctions from the D.C. Department of Health's Board of Nursing. The board regulates the practices of registered nurses, practical nurses and advanced practiced registered nurses (including midwives, clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetist, nurse practitioners and trained medical employees). Sanctions might include suspension or even revocation of one's nursing license, and therefore the inability to practice nursing.

For these individuals, a strong defense becomes all the more critical.

Continue reading "Nurse Arrested for Theft of Painkillers at Alexandria Rehab" »

May 26, 2013

D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Bill on the Horizon

Following the recent passage of marijuana decriminalization measures in Washington state and Colorado, there has been a great deal of buzz about the introduction of a similar voter-sponsored initiative in D.C.
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As our D.C. marijuana defense lawyers' understand it, two D.C. Council members are contemplating the formulation of their own decriminalization measure, so that they can wrangle more control over the issue from outside groups.

D.C. does allow possession of small amounts of marijuana for patients who legally possess a valid, physician-provided prescription.

However outside of that, the D.C. Code 48-904.01 holds that a person who is found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana may be found guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. If that violation occurred within 1,000 feet of an elementary school, day care center, vocational school, secondary school, college, junior college, university, public swimming pool, video arcade, playground, public library, youth center or in or around public housing, expect the penalty to be doubled - up to 1 year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

This is a marked difference from certain places like California, which define possession of small amounts of the drug for recreational purposes as an "infraction," punishable simply by a fine of $100.

The majority of first-time offenders in D.C. are sentenced to community service, and most are able to have their records expunged - assuming they have no prior offenses.

Still, Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) argued that the criminal prosecution disproportionately targeted young African Americans, many of whom are unable to hire a decent lawyer and end up with a criminal record that affects them for life.

Barry and fellow Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) are hoping to change that and are said to be in the process of drafting legislation that would either significantly reduce criminal penalties for those caught with a small amount of marijuana, or eliminate those sanctions entirely.

The pair say they have to take control of the issue, or risk outside groups petitioning for competing ballot measures. Ultimately, that would put the issue up for public vote.

A representative of the Marijuana Policy Project has said that advocates of marijuana reform in D.C. may seek a referendum on the issue as soon as next fall.

Wells, who has announced his intention to run for mayor next year, said that it is high time that D.C. "enter the 21st century" and stop prioritizing arrests for a something that is not a major crime.

The measure crafted by Barry and Wells is expected to be introduced sometime this summer. Other Council members have voiced their support for such a measure. However, some, like Phil Mendelson, remain skeptical.

Mendelson was quoted as saying he doesn't believe it's the right time and that he doesn't believe such a measure in the nation's capitol would go over well with Congress. Mendelson added that if the issue were to go before voters, rather than be passed as an initiative by Council, it could avoid additional scrutiny from Congress.

Continue reading "D.C. Marijuana Decriminalization Bill on the Horizon" »

May 19, 2013

D.C. Burglary Arrest Stems from Dozens of Alleged Crimes

A D.C. man has been arrested in connection with dozens of commercial burglaries in Maryland, and authorities say he might be connected to dozens more in the district.
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Our D.C. burglary defense lawyers know that while the suspect isn't accused of anything violent, a case like this is high stakes, based on the sheer volume of crimes alleged.

We're dealing essentially with two different crimes here: burglary and theft.

Let's start with burglary, as defined in D.C. Criminal Code 22-801(a) and (b). First-degree burglary deals primarily with dwellings that were occupied by other humans at the time you entered. In this case, we're talking about commercial structures, and in these cases, whether or not they are occupied, it will be considered a second-degree burglary. This charge is still a felony offense, which is punishable by between 2 to 15 years in prison.

Next, we have theft charges. Per D.C. Criminal Code 22-3211 and 22-3212, we know that theft is the taking of another person's property for the suspect's own benefit or for the benefit of some other third party. Penalties for theft are going to depend on the amount of property stolen. Anything over $1,000 will be considered first-degree theft, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. If the value is less than $1,000, it's considered a second-degree theft, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

So let's assume this individual is convicted for 12 counts of second-degree burglary and 12 counts of second-degree theft. We would be talking about a potential maximum penalty that would exceed the rest of his life in prison.

With the help of a good lawyer, it's possible many of those charges could be dropped and he may not serve more than probation, if that. It all depends on the weight of the evidence against him.

This case was kick-started by a marked increase in commercial burglary reports earlier this year. For this reason, local police agencies dedicated special resources to solving these cases, which they now say were mostly connected to this one individual, who is on probation for similar crimes in Virginia.

Authorities say he used a flathead screwdriver to gain entry to businesses and office buildings, from which he took cellphones, laptops, computers and other electronic devices. He also reportedly stole gift cards and credit cards, making several purchases from Banana Republic, Victoria's Secret and H&M.

What will be a special hurdle for the defense in these cases is the fact that many of these places that were burglarized were equipped with surveillance cameras. Further, in at least two of the break-ins, witnesses reportedly spotted him and were able to describe his appearance to investigators.

How difficult this evidence will be to overcome will depend on the quality of those videos, as well as the reliability of those witnesses. There is a good chance that a decent attorney could successfully suppress evidence of his prior burglary convictions, as it could prejudice a jury against him, but one doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other.

Continue reading "D.C. Burglary Arrest Stems from Dozens of Alleged Crimes" »

May 17, 2013

D.C. Misdemeanor Arrests Should Not Involve Jail Time, Group Says

The Council for Court Excellence, a watchdog of D.C. courts, is proposing a statute that would require law enforcement to immediately release people who are arrested for non-violent, misdemeanor crimes.
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Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that this would immediately have the effect of reducing the crowded jails in the District, as well as saving taxpayers' money, police officer's time and defendants' headaches.

The law would be primarily intended for those arrested on offenses like possessing an open container of alcohol or minor incidents of shoplifting.

As written, it would not be applicable for those charged with a felony or domestic violence (regardless of whether it was filed as a misdemeanor or felony) or anyone who is already on parole or probation or who is considered to be a potential flight risk.

A measure like this could ease many burdens for those in D.C. Still, it's important to point out that even if it does pass, we don't want to give people a false sense of relief that a conviction isn't going to mean any jail time. This law would pertain only to the initial arrest period. If you are convicted, a judge could still potentially sentence you to up to a year in jail for a misdemeanor.

The best way to avoid this fate is to avoid the conviction. The best way to do that is to hire a good attorney.

No lawyer can promise you a favorable outcome, but having one in a misdemeanor criminal case can bolster your chances. That's because in misdemeanor cases, unlike felony cases, you aren't automatically entitled to an attorney. That means if you don't seek your own, the court isn't going to assign you one and you'll be left to navigate the system on your own.

We're definitely in favor of a measure like this, which would reduce the amount of hassle a non-violent offender would face. The way it is now, a person arrested for urinating in public would be arrested, sent to jail and might have to wait there for several hours or possibly even several days before receiving a court hearing. Under the new measure, they'd pay a $35 fine and be released. If the person couldn't afford to pay the fine, they would be released to ensure there would be some measure of economic equity among defendants.

The council noted that if District officials adopt the proposal, police officers too would spend far less time and energy jailing people on minor nuisances that could easily be handled with a quick citation or summons.

The chances of this measure passing seem fair. You may recall two years ago that the council passed a measure repealing all criminal penalties for those nabbed driving with expired license plates that were more than a month overdue. The move came after two arrests made headlines: Including a mother with an infant in the back seat and another a Navy lieutenant commander who was detained for hours, locked in a jail cell, fingerprinted and photographed - because their tags had expired.

Continue reading "D.C. Misdemeanor Arrests Should Not Involve Jail Time, Group Says" »

May 10, 2013

D.C. Drug Overdoses Prompt Mix of Murder Charges, Mercy

A 47-year-old Virginia man is facing federal conspiracy charges in the death of a young man to whom he had sold drugs and who later died of an overdose.
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Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that this kind of case is cropping up more frequently throughout the U.S.

It's worth noting that in D.C., council members recently approved the so-called "Good Samaritan Law," which decriminalizes certain legal offenses for people who are suffering from an overdose or those who call for emergency medical help for someone else who is suffering from one.

Both the Leesburg case and the D.C. law reflect two very different approaches to the failed War on Drugs.

In the Leesburg case, federal prosecutors are alleging that the defendant dealt oxycodone to teenagers in Loudoun County from 2006 through 2012 and that this "conspiracy" ultimately led to the death of a 20-year-old regular customer, who was found dead by his parents in their home three summers ago. The deceased was determined to have suffered from an overdose from injecting oxycodone, which officials say was provided by the defendant. The deceased had been released from a rehabilitation center a day earlier.

The federal conspiracy charge is not a minor one. It carries a minimum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum of life in prison without the possibility of parole - the same as murder.

The defendant, who owns a local limousine business, was reported to have for years arrived on high school campuses in one of his limousines and sell to high school students and recent graduates. Customers were reportedly lined up four deep.

The defendant's supply reportedly came from D.C.

However, with this particular instance, the defendant didn't even sell directly to the victim. He sold to two others, who later left five pills for the victim in his parents' mailbox, as a "gift" for returning from rehab.

Four hours later, the victim was dead, a used syringe found at his side.

One of those individuals has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.

Other similar cases abound. In Minnesota, prosecutors in Minneapolis vowed last month to begin filing third-degree murder charges against heroin dealers whose customers suffer a fatal overdose. Heroin overdose deaths in Minneapolis are at an all-time high.

In Tampa, Florida, a suspected drug dealer was recently arrested for third-degree murder in the death of a 21-year-old man following his overdose on oxycodone.

And in Orange County, California, a man suspected of supplying heroin to a 21-year-old woman who later died of an overdose has been charged with murder by local authorities there.

Historically, prosecutors had been reluctant to pursue such charges against dealers because there was always the difficulty of proving how the drugs got to the deceased.

As more of these cases are successful, however, more are being filed - both at the local and the federal level.

In D.C., the recent passage of the Good Samaritan Law is intended to encourage those who witness a person overdosing to call for medical or law enforcement assistance.

The allows that:


  • Police who observe "small amounts" of illegal paraphernalia or drugs at the scene of an overdose should not consider these to be crimes either for the person experiencing the overdose or for witnesses who sought help;

  • A minor should be provided a limited amount of protection from criminal charges for underage possession of alcohol if he or she experiences an overdose or seeks help for a peer;

  • An adult 25 or younger is provided limited protection from criminal charges for supplying a minor with drugs or alcohol if he or she seeks medical assistance for a minor in need of it;

  • The possession of naloxone, which is a medication that rapidly reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, and its use by laypersons on individuals who are experiencing an overdose, are from now on decriminalized in D.C.

Continue reading "D.C. Drug Overdoses Prompt Mix of Murder Charges, Mercy" »

May 5, 2013

D.C. Weapons Charges Could Result From Activists' Capitol March

Pro-gun activists are rallying for a July 4 march across the Memorial Bridge, down Independence Avenue and through the Capitol, and past the U.S. Supreme Court and White House.
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And they plan to do this shouldering loaded rifles.

Our D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand this is a measure intended to protest a perceived assault on gun rights.

Where these estimated 1,000 to 10,000-plus activists plan to start their march, on the Virginia side of the Potomac, there may not be much of an issue, as gun laws there are relatively lax.

However, in crossing over the bridge and into D.C., they may be setting themselves up for trouble.

In D.C., as in most other places, it's illegal for people convicted of a felony to be in possession of a firearm or to possess an unregistered firearm or to carry a pistol without a license.

But even assuming everyone involved in the march has a clean criminal record, has a registered firearm and a license, he or she could still face criminal charges in D.C.

In fact, D.C. Metro Police Chief Cathy Lanier warned that if protestors violate the district's gun laws - which prohibit open carry - they will be arrested.

The District is in the company of only three states in banning open carry of handguns outright. Thirty-five states expressly allow it.

However, the District does permit open carry of long guns - that is, rifles or shot guns - in public. But if those long rifles are loaded, it's a different story.

Event organizer Adam Kokesh is an Iraq War veteran, radio host and libertarian. He said he has put the police department "on notice" of his intentions, adding that "We would rather die on our feet than live on our knees."

Kokesh was discharged from the military six years ago, after engaging in political activity while in uniform. While we certainly admire the spirit in which the protest is intended, we have concerns that this won't end well.

Organizers have yet to file a permit or make direct contact with the Metro Police, though Lanier said her agency intends to reach out to the organizers to make them understand what needs to be done in order to be in compliance with the law.

"Passing into the District of Columbia with loaded firearms is a violation of the law, and we'll have to treat it as such," Lanier was quoted as saying.

Kokesh has said that anyone involved in the protest should respectfully submit to arrest without resistance if he or she is approached "respectfully" by police.

He didn't provide an alternative for action if protesters were met by an officer who approached disrespectfully. He has also been quoted as saying that it won't be violent "unless the government makes it violent."

In a recent Twitter post, Kokesh also said that if the government attempted to take the people's guns, they would have two choices. Either, "shoot government agents, or submit to slavery."

So far, 2,000 people have pledged to attend this march. We would encourage each of them to first be educated on the gun laws in D.C. before openly carrying them.

If you are arrested, immediately seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Continue reading "D.C. Weapons Charges Could Result From Activists' Capitol March" »

April 30, 2013

D.C. Robbery, Assault Defendants Face Decades Behind Bars

Had the three suspects who allegedly attacked the 30-year-old husband and father simply stolen his wallet, cell phone and keys, as was allegedly the primary motivation, they may not now be facing decades in prison.
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However, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that when one of the defendants reportedly brought and used an aluminum bat to the scene, it became a whole new ballgame.

One of those defendants is facing 13 serious felony charges, including armed robbery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors say the three men, ages 17 to 22, had hatched plan to commit a series of robberies near Capitol Hill last summer.

The alleged victim was among the first, and was walking home after having had some drinks with friends following a Nationals baseball game. It was about 1 a.m.

When the three man rushed up to him, the victim reportedly put up his hands, told them he had only a phone and a bank card, which he handed over. As he turned to walk away, the 17-year-old reportedly struck the victim with the but of BB gun.

The victim began to stagger, dazed from the impact. That's when prosecutors say the 22-year-old suspect took his baseball bat and began beating the victim about the head.

They then left him there, taking his nearby vehicle.

The victim wasn't discovered until nearly 8 a.m. the next day. He was unconscious. His skull had been smashed.

Surgeons say he underwent a number of procedures, but has been left permanently brain-damaged.

The 22-year-old defendant is suspected to be the ring-leader. The 17-year-old defendant is believed to have been concerned about the blood he might get on his new shoes.

The 19-year-old defendant, who pleaded guilty and has agreed to testify against both of them, has said that he began to feel an incredible sense of guilt as he thumbed through the photos of the victim's young child on his stolen iPhone.

The 22-year-old defendant is the first to go on trial.

In Washington D.C., robbery includes three basic elements. There is first the element of violence or force. Then, there is the element that is taking something of value. And finally, the item needs to be taken directly from that person.

Under these circumstances alone, it's a felony under D.C. Criminal Code 22-2801. As such, it's punishable by a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 15 years in prison.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the offense and whether you have any prior criminal history, that minimum sentence could be boosted to anywhere between 5 to years.

If, however, a weapon is used - and that doesn't have to be a gun - it becomes an armed robbery, in which case the maximum sentence becomes 30 years.

Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon may be equally serious.

In order to prove this crime under D.C. Criminal Code 22-402, prosecutors have to establish each of the following elements:


  • The defendant injured or attempted to injure or threatened to injure another person by force or violence;

  • That the defendant acted on purpose and voluntarily;

  • That the defendant had the actual ability to injure the person;

  • That the defendant committed this act with a dangerous weapon.


A conviction for this charge carries a maximum 10 years in prison.

Given the severity of injuries in this case, the prosecution may have at some point also mulled a possible attempted homicide charge. It's not clear why such a charge was not filed in this case.

Anyone who is arrested on charges of robbery or aggravated assault in D.C. should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Continue reading "D.C. Robbery, Assault Defendants Face Decades Behind Bars" »

April 27, 2013

D.C. Defense Lawyers Review New Rape Investigation Guidelines

A man suspected of a 30-year-old D.C. sexual assault was recently convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The 64-year-old delabwork1.jpgfendant is alleged to have attacked the 25-year-old victim outside of her home after she returned from work.

Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that the kind of tactics employed in rape cases back when this happened in 1978 have evolved significantly - most notably with the advent of DNA.

In fact, that's what ultimately solved this cold case, which had been inactive until it was re-opened by the department's cold case unit in 2011. By that time, the defendant had been convicted of a burglary and sexual battery in Florida in 1999, so his DNA was entered into CODIS, which is the national DNA-tracking database. A swab taken from the victim back in 1978 matched the defendant.

Because of the kinds of changes that have occurred in these particular investigations over the last 20 years, the U.S. Department of Justice, back in 2004, issued national guidelines for forensic medical examinations in cases of sexual assault.

Now, the agency has updated those guidelines in its April 2013 National Protocol for Sexual Assault Medical Forensic Examinations for both adults and adolescents, the second edition.

At their core, the guidelines attempt to create uniformity among medical facilities, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors with regard to how sexual assault cases are approached.

A spokeswoman for the agency was quoted as saying that the biggest difference between this newer version and the original is that it takes a less prosecutorial tone. While the emphasis had previously been on pressuring the victim to cooperate with law enforcers to provide DNA samples, statements and other evidence, this new approach focuses on ensuring the mental health and well-being of the alleged victim.

In the immediate, this may seem to not affect defendants one way or another. But in fact, it does.

To begin with, an accuser who is reluctant may be hasty in revealing certain information or evidence that could be relevant to the investigation. This could potentially result in a mistaken witness identity or other issues that could later be problematic for the case.

Also, putting less pressure on accusers reduces the chances that false accusations may quickly spiral into an out-of-control situation, which the accuser may feel powerless to stop after a certain point.

Additionally, any delay in evidence collection may favor the defendant.

The other key thing this publication does is provide uniform approaches to forensic testing. That can be beneficial for defendants in a number of ways.

For one thing, it helps to ensure that defendants in districts that may have access to fewer resources won't be treated unfairly just because the testing standards aren't up to par.

Secondly, if those testing protocol are breached, it gives defense lawyers a good opportunity to challenge that evidence.

For example, one of the guidelines stresses the importance of secure storage sites for evidence that is potentially vulnerable to degradation. So let's say we're talking about a sample of wet blood or semen. These kinds of evidence require refrigeration. Urine, meanwhile, would ideally be frozen. There is also the expectation that the individuals working with samples be well-trained and knowledgeable about the potential vulnerabilities of such evidence. When the evidence is being transferred from one facility or location to another, there is the expectation that it will at all times remain preserved throughout the process.

If at any point there was a breach in the storage or if those who handled the evidence aren't as well trained as perhaps they should be, our defense attorneys won't hesitate to challenge the integrity of the evidence on that basis.

Continue reading "D.C. Defense Lawyers Review New Rape Investigation Guidelines" »

April 20, 2013

D.C. Drug Sentence Minimums Fought by Mom of Convicted Twins

Back in the spring of 1998, two young brothers, twins, were gearing up for graduation with political science degrees. They had plans to attend law school together, and from their go into practice with one another.
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It was not to be.

Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers understand that the two were swept up in a wave of anti-drug sentiment, accompanied by harsh drug laws that unfairly targeted and punished young, minority males.

Their mother was recently profiled in The Washington Post for activism efforts to educate the community on unfair sentencing laws and other aspects of the D.C. criminal justice system.

It started when a nearby auto repair shop business owner had confessed to dealing drugs. He implicated the twins in a conspiracy plot that involved some 500 grams of crack cocaine and 10 kilos of the powder form of the drug.

U.S. Marshals arrived at the door of the home the two shared. The home was searched. There were no drugs. There was no money.

And yet, the two were convicted in a joint trial, with one receiving 15.5 years and the other receiving 19.5 years.

The drug dealer who had implicated them? The stiff anti-drug laws in the 1980s meant that his "substantial assistance" to the government in those cases meant he got a major break on his own sentence.

Laws governing the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine crimes were handed down back when the crack epidemic was sweeping the country.

Despite the fact that these two were college-educated, had no criminal backgrounds, the evidence against them slim and the witness against them questionable, the minimum mandatory guidelines meant they would not walk out of prison in under 15 years.

There was a law passed in 1994 that would have allowed for significantly-reduced sentences for offenders who committed first-time crimes. However, that would have required that the brothers give information that was "complete and truthful," according to the government's definition. Problem was, the brothers had always maintained that the truth was, they were innocent.

The twins' mother decided she could not rest until wrongs like this were righted. Not only did she want her sons free, but she wanted to ensure such unfair sentencing wouldn't continue to hurt others in the future.

She told her story over and over again - with the Open Society Institute, the Justice Policy Alliance and the Sentencing Project. She joined Families Against Mandatory Minimums. She lobbied Congress for a change in the laws. She hosted her own online radio program from her kitchen, detailing all the injustices of the day stemming from minimum mandatory guidelines.

Then, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal judges should not be subjected to mandatory sentencing guidelines. Two years later, another legislative tweak in the law with regard to crack cocaine sentencing meant that her sons were able to have their sentenced reduced by 3 and 4 years respectively.

But it wasn't until 2010 that Congress passed the Fair Sentencing Act, which put sentencing for crack cocaine offenses more in line with others of equal caliber.

By that time, however, one of the twins was already at home and another was soon to arrive.

Now, the pair are working to rebuild their lives. They have found jobs. They are slowly trying to pick up the pieces.

Meanwhile, their mother continues their activism, refusing to shy away now that her sons have returned.

We applaud her continued dedication.

While the sentencing laws have changed dramatically, drug offenses still carry significant weight. Hiring an experienced lawyer is critical in these cases, where you could still potentially be facing years behind bars.

Continue reading "D.C. Drug Sentence Minimums Fought by Mom of Convicted Twins" »

April 18, 2013

D.C.-Area Felony Voyeurism Charges Reduced to Misdemeanors

A defense lawyer for a D.C.-area landlord facing felony voyeurism charges was able to negotiate a plea deal to have those charges reduced to three misdemeanor charges of visual surveillance with prurient intent.
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The highly-educated landlord/attorney was accused of installing video cameras in the smoke detectors of private apartments he rented to young women.

Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that it will be the difference between a maximum 18 months and three years in jail (15 years if those recordings had been disseminated).

According to the Washington Post, this incident happened in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Maryland, just a half hour north of D.C.

Reports are that he leased rooms in a house to young women at significantly reduced rates. At some point, he had cameras installed in their bedrooms, usually in the smoke detector. He then reportedly watched that video from another location, copying recordings of the women in various states of undress or engaging in sexual activity.

This allegedly went on for years until one of the tenants happened to be reading an article about ways in which people hide surveillance cameras. The article noted smoke detectors.

She became concerned when she realized her own smoke detector didn't beep as it normally should during a power outage. She called her boyfriend over to help her look at it. That is when they reportedly discovered the camera, with wires that lead through the ceiling. The police were called.

Investigators found similar recording devices in the other units. While searching the defendant's home, they discovered video and photographs of all three tenants engaged in sexual activity.

The defendant initially faced seven counts each of using a camera without consent for prurient intent and visual surveillance without consent, as well as a single count of placement of a surreptitious surveillance device. He later agreed to plead guilty to the three misdemeanor counts, on the condition that the other, more serious charges be dropped.

The most he faces now is 18 months behind bars. He will learn his fate at a sentencing hearing this summer.

He is free on bond in the meantime, with conditions on that freedom, including that he is forbidden from advertising the lease of rooms in his home. He is also to continue to receive treatment, with reports of that treatment being forwarded to the judge prior to his sentencing.

Two of the women have already filed civil lawsuits against the defendant as well. With the criminal case still pending, he reportedly sent them a private text message, prior to their filing, saying he was willing to discuss settlement options with them before they filed civil claims, but not afterward.

Being an attorney, he should have known better than to contact witnesses in a pending criminal case. He is fortunate he wasn't charged additionally with witness tampering, even though his offer relates to the civil case.

Continue reading "D.C.-Area Felony Voyeurism Charges Reduced to Misdemeanors" »

April 11, 2013

D.C. Prostitution Ring Results in Federal Conviction, Possible Deportation

A Maryland man recently pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from an interstate prostitution ring that reportedly involved some 100 women who were transported to work in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and other surrounding states between 2009 and 2012.
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Our D.C. criminal defense defense lawyers know that cases like this, whether charged federally or at the district or state level, are going to be serious because more often, they are viewed through the lens of human trafficking. That means that while the sex worker, frequently viewed now as a victim, will face less serious charges, if any at all, those who organize the operation could end up facing serious felonies.

In this case, the individual admitted to his role in recruiting foreign nationals for prostitution, promoting the operation through the distribution of business cards at various Spanish restaurants, construction sites and day labor operations, personally transporting the women to various locations for the purposes of engaging in sex work and collecting a substantial portion of the proceeds.

He faces up to five years in prison, though it is expected as a Mexican citizen, he will be deported following the completion of his sentence. It will be the third time he has been deported from the U.S.

In D.C., a boom of major construction projects downtown has resulted in an increase of prostitution arrests, according to Metro police. Investigators say that while most prostitution activity takes place between midnight and 5 a.m., a recent surge was being observed around 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m., which correlates to the changes in construction workers' shifts.

Police said that while prostitution had been a major issue in D.C. back in the 1970s, it hadn't been since - until recently.

A sex worker who is charged with prostitution under D.C. criminal code will face up to three months in jail and a $500 fine for a first-time offense. Rarely will a person actually receive that much, especially if your attorney can prove you were a victim. Second-time offenders face up to 135 days in jail and a fine of up to $750. Third and subsequent offenders face up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

There are many options for diversion programs for sex workers. Even though these are misdemeanor charges, it is wise to obtain the services of a skilled attorney, who can help to significantly reduce or eliminate your chances of jail time and hefty fines.

Those facing human trafficking charges, more commonly referred to as "pimps," are often facing felony charges. They may be granted a public defender to their case, but seeking out an attorney with specific experience in handling these types of cases is critical. This is particularly true if any of the sex workers whose services you allegedly sold were under the age of 18. In cases such as that, under D.C. Criminal Code 22-2704, you would be facing up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.

Continue reading "D.C. Prostitution Ring Results in Federal Conviction, Possible Deportation" »

April 9, 2013

D.C. Murder Suspect Presents Strong Case for Self-Defense

Initially charged with second-degree murder following the death of her husband, a woman was released from jail and into a lower-security halfway house by a D.C. Superior Court judge who found there was substantial evidence the slaying may have instead been an act of self-defense.
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The charge she now faces is voluntary manslaughter.

Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys
know it is a rare move for a judge to reduce the charges prior to trial, and it speaks to the strength of evidence in the case.

Family members told reporters that the suspect, a local pharmacist, had been fighting extensively with her husband of four years in recent weeks.

On the night in question, the pair were allegedly arguing about the husband's change in his Facebook status to "separated." The wife had been staying elsewhere when the husband called and asked her to return to the home and talk. There, a series of fights erupted. The suspect's sister said she received a call that night and described her sister's demeanor as "frightened."

About two hours later, the wife called 911 to report her husband had gotten violent, so she shot him. First responders arrived to find the husband had been shot in the back of the head.

The woman would later tell investigators that at one point, her husband picked up a pistol and placed it on the TV stand in the living room. He then walked away and she said she picked up the weapon. He then lunged at her, she said, and she fired the gun three times.

She conceded he hadn't hit her that night or threatened to do so, but he had in the past.

Investigators reportedly found three other firearms in the home, none of which were registered to either the husband or wife.

In a later hearing, the woman's defense attorney revealed to the judge that his client had been battered repeatedly by her husband over the course of the marriage, but she had never called police because he had expressed a desire to enter politics, and she wanted to protect his future career.

Still, prosecutors were planning to elevate the charge to first-degree murder when the judge ordered it to be reduced to voluntary manslaughter. The primary difference between these two charges under D.C. law is the presence of adequate provocation.

Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another person with malice aforethought. That is, you had ill will and/or "wickedness of heart," and the act was deliberate and premeditated.

Voluntary manslaughter, meanwhile, is an intentional killing, but it is one with adequate provocation. One example that is given is if a wife returns home to find her husband in bed with her best friend and in a moment of sudden and intense fury, she kills both of them, she would be charged with voluntary manslaughter. The charge implies the person is still culpable, but had little time to reflect or plan the crime.

Involuntary manslaughter, meanwhile, is when a death is caused by criminal negligence. That is, the death was entirely unintentional, but still caused by the failure to exercise an appropriate degree of care.

While a person convicted of murder may serve up to life in prison, a person found guilty of manslaughter may serve up to 30 years. If you are facing charges in any capacity in the death of another person, you need to seek experienced legal representation.

Continue reading "D.C. Murder Suspect Presents Strong Case for Self-Defense" »