Recently in Gun and Weapons Charges Category

May 12, 2014

I Have a Permit to Carry a Concealed Weapon: Is it valid in Washington, DC?

gun4.jpgOne of the most common DC gun charges that I handle involves a client from another state who was arrested for Carrying a Pistol outside of their home or place of business. This charge used to be called Carrying a Pistol without a License (CPWL) but was recently changed. The reason for the name change probably has to do with the fact that they do not issues carry permits in the District Columbia. That includes open carry and concealed carry.

The draconian firearms laws in DC are basically that if you own any gun (pistol, rifle, and shotgun) it must be registered. Once it is registered, you may only keep it in your home or place of business. You cannot carry your gun anywhere else in the District of Columbia. If you do, it is a felony punishable but up to 5 years in federal prison on a first offense. If the gun is not registered in Washington, DC, you can also be charged with possession of an unregistered firearm (UF). As if that wasn't harsh enough, because you need to have a registered firearm to own any ammunition in DC, you can also be charged with possession of unlawful ammunition (UA) if you had any bullets in the gun or in your possession.

Please note that you do not need to have the gun with you to get arrested for UA in Washington, DC. As lawyer who regularly represents people charged with gun crimes, I have represented people for having shotgun shells in their trunk which were purchased at sporting goods store for lawful purposes.

You may be saying to yourself, as a lawful gun owner, I'm not going to set foot in Washington, DC. The problem often arises when you are driving around DC on the beltway. If you are driving through the District and get pulled over, you can get arrested for carrying a pistol and the other charges I just mentioned. This is true even if you were driving from Florida to Maryland and never had any intention of stopping in Washington, DC. What makes matters worse is that the DC Metropolitan police often use the fact that most gun owners are responsible people against them. They see the VA plates and ask if you have any weapons in the car. They know that when you got your carry permit, you were instructed to tell any officer that you have a firearm in the car. This is for everyone's safety and it makes sense. If you exercise this common sense, you will be rewarded by being placed unrest on a gun charge

There have been numerous attempts to change the law so that responsible gun owners can carry firearms in the District of Columbia, but as of now, the only people that can carry a weapon are the police, the military, and some "Special Police Officers." In case you were wondering a Special Police Officer (SPO) is essentially a private security guard that has limited arrest powers and the authority to carry a pistol on their worksite.

Being arrested on a gun charge in Washington, DC is a serious matter than can not only affect your liberty, but may lead to you not being able to own a firearm in any state. While every situation is different, if you have been charged with a gun crime in the District of Columbia, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

November 15, 2013

Criminal Defense Watch: Washington D.C. Gunshot Survey

Nationwide, police departments are called to the scene when gunshots are fired. In many cases, there is no suspect, not even a victim, merely the sounds of gunfire and a terrified civilian. The DC Police Department is using a gunfire surveillance network known as "ShotSpotter" to listen for the sound of gunfire in an attempt to quickly respond in the event of a shooting. While some may say the surveillance technique improves the opportunity to stop crime, critics see it as a potential infringement of privacy and another "Big Brother" move by the government.


The new devices have logged over 39,000 incidents based on 300 sensors across 20 square miles of the city. Data was obtained through a public records request and analyzed by the Washington Post in an effort to better understand how law enforcement agencies are using these sensors to trace potential crimes. Our Washington D.C. defense attorneys are experienced in the investigation of criminal allegations. We are also abreast of technological developments locally and nationwide, some of which may conflict with the civil rights of individuals in our community.

Continue reading "Criminal Defense Watch: Washington D.C. Gunshot Survey" »

October 27, 2013

Perceptions of D.C. Arrests and Crime Out of Line With Reality

Many have decried the "uptick" in crime in the Logan Circle area, with some saying it is "out-of-control" and requesting greater police presence.
Residents point to bullet-pocked windows and vandalism on various buildings.

However, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that statistics provided by local law enforcement indicates the crime levels are in fact lower than they have been in years.

Continue reading "Perceptions of D.C. Arrests and Crime Out of Line With Reality" »

August 24, 2013

D.C. Gun Conviction Tossed When Appeals Court Deems Search Improper

Although it may often seem that police are given the upper hand in interactions with the public in general - and suspects in particular - the fact is that officers must clear a lengthy legal checklist in order for an arrest to be valid and charges to stick.
Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers know that anytime officers fail to strictly adhere to the law, the success of their cases may be in jeopardy - which is good news for you.

Continue reading "D.C. Gun Conviction Tossed When Appeals Court Deems Search Improper" »

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.
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" »

January 24, 2013

D.C. Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel Gross Quoted in Weapons Charges Story

D.C. criminal defense attorney Daniel Gross, was recently quoted in a Washington Times story regarding what could be the controversial prosecution of a man who shot and killed a pit bull that was mauling a young boy. gun.jpg

According to D.C. police and witnesses, the 11-year-old had turned a corner out of an alley on his new bicycle he received for Christmas when he was attacked by three pit bills. The dogs were reportedly unleashed and unattended by their owner. The dogs reportedly clamped their jaws down into the boys chest, stomach, arms and legs.

The owner was nowhere in sight - but another neighbor was. He ran into his home, grabbed a firearm and fired off a single round, hitting one of the animals. Just then, a police officer who was patrolling on his bicycle heard the gunshot and responded in a matter of moments. When he arrived, the dogs were still attacking the boy, prompting the officer to fire several more shots to get the dogs off the boy.

All three dogs died.

The boy, who suffered severe injuries as a result of the attack (and may have even been hit by one of those bullets, according to family members) had to undergo surgery. The boy's family says he is traumatized, and afraid to ever go outside again.

Both the boy's family members and those in the community are hailing the neighbor's actions as that of a hero.

Prosecutors, though, may take a different approach. They are trying to find out for starters whether the armed neighbor legally owned his firearm. Possession of an unregistered firearm or ammunition is punishable by up to one year in a prison and a $1,000 fine, if convicted. If the person is a felon, this offense could result in a maximum 10 years in prison.

Even if the gun was legally registered, it's possible he could be charged for firing it on the street - a crime in D.C. But as Attorney Daniel Gross pointed out to the Washington Times reporter, the issue of whether the gun was legally owned and appropriately registered will likely have a strong bearing in how prosecutors choose to proceed.

Unlawful discharge of a firearm without a permit, under D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503.1, carries a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine as well.

Carrying a pistol without a license, D.C. Criminal Code 22-4504(a) means a person carried a deadly or dangerous weapon outside his or her dwelling, property or place of business. If charged as a felony, it could mean up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

There are two possible defenses that could be mounted in this case, should prosecutors decide to move forward with criminal charges. The first of those would be self-defense, or in this case, defense of another. It seems this individual could make a strong case for this.

The second option would be based on where exactly the armed neighbor was at the time he fired the shots. Was he on his property or was he standing in the street or on the sidewalk? The issue of whether he was on his on property or not at the time the shots were fired makes a big difference. If he was on his own property, he couldn't be charged with "carrying" a pistol without a license.

Continue reading "D.C. Criminal Defense Attorney Daniel Gross Quoted in Weapons Charges Story" »

January 22, 2013

More D.C. Weapons Arrests Likely Under Proposed Federal Gun Laws

Washington D.C. has arguably the tightest gun control laws in the country. blackgun3.jpg

Still, our D.C. criminal defense lawyers recognize that enhanced gun control measures proposed recently by President Barack Obama in the wake of a Connecticut elementary school mass shooting could result in even more arrests.

The Washington Post reports that the much-discussed measures would include 23 executive orders that the President enacted directly, without the approval of the House of Representatives, which is currently controlled by conservative, Second Amendment-supporting Republicans.

Significant measures requiring Congressional approval include re-enactment of the expired assault weapons ban with a limitation of ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, a requirement of criminal background checks for all gun sales, a ban on amor-piercing ammunition by anyone other than police or military personnel and the enactment of tougher sanctions for gun trafficking.

Among those initiatives that would require only an executive order:

  • Letters sent to licensed weapons dealers offering guidance on how to conduct background checks for private sellers;

  • Issue a directive to the U.S. Attorney General to review categories of people barred from gun possession and determine if additional measures can be taken to ensure the rules are enforced;

  • Clarify that the health care law won't stop doctors from asking patients if they possess guns at home;

  • Invest $20 million this year to give states incentives to share background data on would-be gun owners;

  • Mandate that all federal law enforcement entities trace and keep all recovered firearms;

  • Propose laws to provide police background check data that would prevent return of a weapon to someone who is barred from possessing it;

  • Require law enforcement to publish detailed annual reports on lost and stolen guns;

  • Enhance standards for gun locks and safes;

  • Provide incentives for more school resources officers;

  • Expand availability of mental health care coverage.

As it already stands under D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon carries a minimum sentence of 1 year in prison, with a possible maximum of 10 years. Other unlawful firearm possession charges in D.C. carry between 2 and 10 years and a fine of up to $15,000.

Crimes in D.C. committed by persons who are in possession of a firearm carry a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

The Metro Police Department recently showed they weren't hesitant to enforce these laws either, as the Post reported three different incidents in previous weeks in which authorities seized six guns, including one Uzi, a type of automatic weapon.

One of those arrested in connection with the guns was found to have a large amount of PCP on his person.

Another is a suspect in a robbery who fled police and reportedly tossed a gun as he ran. Officers later recovered the gun, saying the serial numbers on the weapon had been destroyed.

Continue reading "More D.C. Weapons Arrests Likely Under Proposed Federal Gun Laws" »

August 9, 2012

D.C. Gun Laws: Man Orders TV, Gets Assault Rifle

D.C. police are still trying to sort out how it was that a man who ordered a television instead ended up with an assault rifle - similar to the M16s used by military and law enforcement agencies. firearms.jpg

The man isn't facing weapons charges, as D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand he contacted authorities immediately after receiving the package.

Possession of a weapon like that without a license is subject to all types of penalties under D.C. Criminal Code 22-4503, 22-4505(a), 7-2502.01 and 22-4514.

The first of those is unlawful possession of a firearm. This statute prohibits a person from possessing or owning a gun if that individual falls under any of the following categories:

  • Has ever been convicted of a felony;
  • Has ever been convicted of a firearms charge;
  • Is a drug addict;
  • Has ever been convicted of certain misdemeanors, such as domestic violence;
  • Is currently the subject of a civil protection order.

Violation of this statute is an automatic 1-year prison term, though the person can serve up to 10 years. It doesn't appear that the man to whom the gun was delivered falls under any of those categories - he's a musician who simply wanted to buy a television. Other forms of unlawful possession of a gun in D.C. are punishable by between 2 and 10 years behind bars and maximum fines of $15,000.

The second statute deals with carrying a pistol without a license. In D.C., it's illegal to carry a pistol or any deadly or dangerous weapon that is capable of being concealed. If the weapon is found inside a person's residence, it's considered a misdemeanor with a jail sentence of up to 1 year and fines of up to $1,000. There is case law that could be used to challenge this particular use of the law, as it was argued to have violated the Second Amendment in D.C. v. Heller.

If, however, someone is found to have violated this statute by taking the weapon outside, it's charged as a felony, which means you could be facing up to five years in prison.

Then there is D.C. Criminal Code 7-2502.01, which addresses possession of an unregistered firearm. In order to sell or possess any kind of firearm in D.C., you have to have a valid registration certificate. Failure to do so can result in up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

And finally, D.C. Criminal Code 22-4514 deals with possession of a prohibited weapon. These are weapons that are considered to be especially dangerous (an assault rifle would be applicable), and there are a number of others. For a first-time offender without a prior felony conviction, the penalty would be up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Any subsequent offenses could result in up to 10 years in prison.

Again, though, this individual isn't facing any charges, as he did report the delivery to police immediately. Authorities are trying to piece together what happened, and they did have to confiscate the weapon, saying it was not only illegal for the man to keep the gun in his home, it was also unlawful for him to try to transport it back to the seller.

Continue reading "D.C. Gun Laws: Man Orders TV, Gets Assault Rifle " »

March 9, 2012

Fight withTransgender Prostitute leaves D.C. Cop Facing Criminal Charges

An off-duty police officer has been indicted on a slew of Washington D.C. assault and weapons charges, following an altercation during the officer's alleged attempt to hire transgender prostitutes. He is also facing two counts of solicitation of prostitution.


As our Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney understands it, the officer is being made to answer to nine charges in all, which could amount to more than 30 years behind bars if he's convicted.

The details, according to the Washington Post, are somewhat sketch, but here's what we know so far:

The 48-year-old Washington D.C. Metropolitan police officer was reportedly outside a local drug store on First Street around 5:30 a.m. There, he was allegedly attempting to hire two transgendered prostitutes by the name of "Kayla" and "Chloe." While talking with one of the individuals, another person approached and began arguing with him.

That's when a security guard working at the drug store asked all of them to leave. The officer then reached for his handgun, which was in the glove box of his Cadillac. He brandished it to the individuals standing there before getting in his vehicle and driving away.

The two prostitutes then met up with other individuals and left the store in another car. Then in an odd development, the car driven by the officer collided with the car containing the prostitutes.

That's when investigators said the officer dove on top of the hood of the other car and began firing his gun into the windshield. Bullets were said to have struck one of the passengers in the arm and hand. At the time, witnesses said the officer was shouting that he would kill all of them.

He was later arrested on the scene.

This all may seem somewhat straightforward, given the fact that several witnesses are attesting to the facts in the case. However, there is some additional background information that could play in the defense's favor.

First, any potential jury is going to have to weigh the credibility of a veteran officer against statements made by known prostitutes.

Secondly, the officer's attorney has been quoted by media as saying the officer was defending himself. He hasn't expounded on that, but it will be interesting to see what approach is taken.

And finally, the officer had been on sick leave at the time of the incident. His defense attorney may need to parse out more details about the nature of that illness and whether it may have played a role in the events as they unfolded.

Prosecutors say the officer had a pattern of reckless behavior, and had been fired from the force 8 years ago for drunk driving. But that decision was later reversed and the officer was allowed to attend a diversion program before returning to work.

At the time of this most recent incident, the officer was said to have been intoxicated.

Continue reading "Fight withTransgender Prostitute leaves D.C. Cop Facing Criminal Charges" »

February 20, 2012

Washington D.C. Robberies in Subway Targeted by Police

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
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" »

December 24, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "70 Arrested in Washington, D.C., Gun, Drug Sting Operation" »

November 15, 2011

Washington D.C. Defendants Have a Right to Due Process in Weapons Cases

A recent case out of the Boston area shows just how critical evidence can be in a criminal case, especially when police botch it.

Guns and weapons charges in Washington D.C. can lead to jail and prison sentences. Even mere possession of an unregistered weapon can result in a fine and incarceration.
An experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer must be consulted if you face these serious charges. Police can charge you with whatever they want; it's what you are convicted of that counts.

An important part of any criminal case is the handling of evidence that police intend to use against you. Most people understand that a defendant has a right to confront all witnesses, meaning they can question everyone on the stand. These questions can reveal holes in their stories and even discredit them completely.

But a person charged with a crime also has a right to see all evidence the prosecution intends to use against them -- or that was made available to police and prosecutors whether or not such evidence is used by prosecutors as part of their case. This means that anything the police dig up and prepare to use must be disclosed to the defendant. Even if there's evidence that detectives discover that could be beneficial to the defendant, it must be disclosed.

In the case in Boston, four men are charged with weapons offenses, but their lawyers are asking that the cases be dismissed because a security videotape was taped over at a gas station where the alleged crimes occurred, The Sun Chronicle reports.

This is a major blunder for the police department investigating the case. As the newspaper reports, an officer watched the tape because it was noted in a police report. But after viewing the tape, police apparently didn't secure a copy and the gas station manager taped over it.

The case centered around a dispute between the defendants and the people inside a Hummer limousine. The videotape allegedly showed part of an altercation, though prosecutors tried to downplay what was on the tape.

Regardless, this is a situation where it's unknown what is on the tape and that tape could help the defendants. Because the tape is gone, the defendants will never know if that could be helpful to their case. The defendants -- ages 19 to 22 -- face multiple firearms charges that could lead to prison time.

It's critical that a defendant's due process rights are upheld in a criminal case. When a person's liberty is on the line, there are no excuses for losing evidence. This is especially true in cases of violence, when officers go trampling through a crime scene, potentially destroying evidence.

If you are facing a serious felony offense, meet with a skilled criminal defense lawyer, who can ensure that your rights are upheld and that all evidence presented against you is scrutinized. Don't allow the prosecution to violate your rights en route to a conviction. Fight back.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. Defendants Have a Right to Due Process in Weapons Cases" »

October 28, 2011

On Why You Should Think Very Carefully Before Taking a Quick Deal on Your First Washington, DC Criminal Charge (Part Two)

703517_justice.jpgIn the first part of this post, I discussed some of the problems faced by clients who have been previously convicted of a felony in Washington, DC. In part two of this post, I would like to discuss another major collateral consequence seen by Washington, DC criminal defense attorneys. Many of my clients tell me that they got into trouble when they were young but have turned their lives around. Many of them haven't been arrested in 10 or even 20 years. When they were 18 or 19 years old, they may have pled to a robbery or a drug charge, but after that, they went to school, got a good job and had a family. Fast-forward 15 years and one of my clients is in a car where someone else in the car has a gun or drugs. The client doesn't even know about it. The driver gets pulled over, someone talks, and the cops arrest everyone in the car for carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL). Along with the CPWL charge, my client gets charged with possession of unlawful ammunition, and possession of an unregistered firearm. Even if the gun was under the driver's seat, they can still say that the passenger had "constructive possession" of the weapon. Yes, they can charge more than one person with possessing the same gun. Now, getting back to the client with the prior record, because he is a convicted a felon, the government can indict him for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The CPWL, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, now becomes a 10-year felony just because of the prior conviction. The prior conviction also means that the government may be able to file "enhancement papers" since the client is considered a repeat offender. On the day of trial, the government hands the defense attorney a paper saying that under the DC Code, the charge now carries a maximum of 30 years in Federal Prison because of the prior felony. This is a not just something that can happen, it happens all time. It happened during my last jury trial.

If you are already in this situation, you need to contact a lawyer as soon as possible to work on fighting the charges. You can't afford to wait if you want to protect your rights and try and preserve your liberty. If you are facing a first offense, you should also contact a lawyer as soon as possible. The best way to try and avoid these problems is to fight the charges instead of taking the first deal that the government offers.

October 26, 2011

On Why You Should Think Very Carefully Before Taking a Quick Deal on Your First Washington, DC Criminal Charge (Part One)

balance.jpgIn Washington, DC, there is no shortage of people being charged with a crime. The fact is that criminal justice can't handle the huge volume. Years ago a law school professor described the criminal court process like trying to pour the liquid in a 55 gallon drum into a coffee cup. Most of it will spill out. And that spilling out means dismissed cases, plea bargains and diversions. It's good for the government and it's good for the court, but all I care about is if it's good for the client.

Let's look at a DC drug charge first. You are in a car with a friend and get pulled over for having an expired registration. The DC Metropolitan Police officer comes up to your car and tells you that your registration is expired and asks for your license. He goes back to his cruiser, runs your info through the warrant management system, finds nothing, and comes back to the car. "Is there anything in the car I should know about?" he asks. At this point, I would like to remind you of my earlier posts on the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination (a.k.a. the right to remain silent or "taking the nickel" as I like to call it). You don't need to tell the officer anything. Simply say "no." If the officer asks if he can search the car, say "no, I am not giving you consent to search me or my car." If he asks why, simple tell him that it is your right to say no and leave it at that. Do not get tricked into letting him do a consent search of you or your car when he had no probable cause. Many people admit to having drugs or guns and end up in the Central Cell Block (CCB) and eventually the DC Superior Court on a gun charge like carrying a pistol without a license (CPWL) or possession with intent to distribute (PWID) drugs.

If this is your first offense, the government will probably make a plea offer where they will not oppose probation. This seems good that you are basically guaranteeing you will not serve time in jail or prison. That may be appealing, and since a trial is always a risk, you take the deal. The problem is that while you didn't serve time, you are now a convicted felon. That has a lot of consequences. You may lose a job, be denied a security clearance, or lose public benefits such as EBT or welfare. You may be evicted from public housing. You may lose the right to vote. These are all collateral consequences of being a convicted felon, but the trouble doesn't end there.

In the next part of this post, I will discuss one of the most common collateral consequences to taking a guilty plea.