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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" »

November 28, 2012

D.C. Robbery Cases to Spike With Holiday Shopping Season

Robbery, perhaps more so than other crimes, is often a matter of opportunity. mallinbudapest.jpg

D.C. criminal defense lawyers know the more opportunity presents itself, the more robberies cases we are likely to see.

Starting with Black Friday and throughout the holiday shopping season, we are expecting to hear from an increasing number of robbery defendants. So, too, are police agencies, a number of which have announced they will mobilize task forces and special operations to specifically target robbery suspects from Nov. 23rd through Dec. 26th.

A recent case just outside of Arundel Mills Mall is likely just the beginning. According to the Anne Arundel County police, a 14-year-old boy was attacked just two hours after the shopping center opened to promote holiday sales. He was reportedly walking out of the Bed Bath & Beyond store shortly after 2 a.m. when a group of five males approached him from behind on the sidewalk. One of the men punched the teen while another grabbed the bag of items the teen had just bought.

The attackers were described by authorities as being between 17 and 21 years-old. Officers have not said what items were stolen, and the teen wasn't seriously injured.

But it's important to note that serious injury isn't necessary for a robbery charge to carry serious time.

In Washington D.C. the crime of robbery is spelled out in D.C. Criminal Code 22-2801 and 22-4502. It is a felony crime that requires three basic elements in order for prosecutors to secure a conviction. These are:


  • That there was force or violence, whether against someone's resistance or by sudden snatching or by making someone fearful of harm. A lot of people think robbery is just stealing something with a gun. But it could be pushing a person in order to take his or her bag. It could be threatening you with words. Even simply approaching someone in a manner perceived to be aggressive could satisfy this element.

  • That something of value was stolen. It doesn't need to be expensive, and it might not even be worth anything except to the person to whom it belongs. Theoretically, a stolen pencil could qualify.

  • Finally, the actual theft needs to take place either directly from that person or from the person's possession. Swiping a briefcase from the bus seat next to you could be considered robbery. However, if that same briefcase is stolen from an unlocked vehicle, that is considered a burglary.


A robbery conviction can result in a prison sentence of anywhere from 2 to 15 years. If you use a firearm, the charge is upgraded to armed robbery, which doubles the maximum prison sentence to 30 years. At minimum, an armed robbery conviction will result in a five-year prison term.

This is why it is so critical for anyone being investigated for robbery to contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Be sure that in the interim, you make no statement to police - or to anyone else - about the alleged incident.

Continue reading "D.C. Robbery Cases to Spike With Holiday Shopping Season" »

November 1, 2012

Police Target Robberies in D.C.

Police in D.C. have been boosting their efforts to thwart and catch suspected robbers, after noting a rash of cases over the last year. gun.jpg

However, D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that these increased patrols, according to The Washington Times, haven't been very effective.

What's interesting here is that it tends to disprove the notion that more police action or presence means less crime. Everyone from police agencies to legislators use theories like this to expand operations, increase budgets and strengthen penalties for certain actions. Here, we see that such action isn't always the answer.

Last year, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier used this theory as the basis for an initiative called "All Hands on Deck." It's a cutesy title for an initiative that saturates city streets with patrolling officers, specifically in an effort to drive down robbery statistics.

But when reporters with the Times analyzed the data, they couldn't find much justification for the effort. One recent weekend, officers took to the streets in full force as part of the initiative. And yet, over the three-day weekend, more than 60 robberies were reported. This is not outrageous, except for when you look at the numbers for the previous weekend. During that time, when the saturation patrols weren't occurring, there were only 40 robberies reported.

A spokeswoman for the police department blamed it on Howard University's homecoming. In the Third District, where the homecoming took place, there were 13 robberies over the weekend (with more than 75 crimes total reported there). But meanwhile, in the Fourth District, there were 14 robberies that same weekend. So the homecoming theory doesn't quite pan out either.

During that same time frame, there were a total of more than 300 crimes reported, including 17 assaults with a deadly weapon, 26 auto thefts, 86 thefts from vehicles and a sexual assault.

Even the local police union is critical of the effort, with a spokesman saying that it proves the effort does little to curb crime, and in fact is more for public relations purposes.

On the whole, robberies are up 6 percent in D.C. this year. There were approximately 3,445 reported in D.C. as of Oct. 21. During the same time last year, there were 3,235. Overall, crime has inched up by about 3 percent.

In one of the recent robberies, a man was reportedly approached by a group of four others and robbed at gunpoint on Underwood Street. In another case, which happened in broad daylight on a Sunday, a man stopped another on the street and robbed him of his wallet at knifepoint.

Robbery is different than other crimes in that it is actually a combination of two crimes: theft and assault. It is not enough that you have merely stolen something. In order to be convicted of robbery in D.C., prosecutors have to show that you stole something of value with the use of violence, the threat of violence or sudden snatching.

Robbery in D.C. is a felony, punishable by between 2 an 15 years in prison. It's a serious crime for which you need skilled representation.

Continue reading "Police Target Robberies in D.C." »

May 4, 2012

Washington D.C. Theft: Cell Phone Robberies to Decrease With Integrated Database

In Washington D.C., theft of cell phones is the fastest growing crime in the district. iphone.jpg

Washington D.C. theft defense attorneys understand that robberies relating to cell phones spiked nearly 55 percent between 2007 and 2011. That's according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

In New York, there were more than 25,000 reports of theft of electronics just in the first 10 months of last year. Of those, more than 80 percent were cell phones.

Now, the cell phone carriers are working together to try to reduce temptation by making the phones virtually worthless once they're stolen.

What we first need to understand is why these devices are such popular targets for Washington D.C. theft in the first place. It has to do with the fact that it's profitable.

For example, an iPhone 4 is going to cost you between $200 and $400. If that phone gets stolen, a person can then turn around and sell it on Craigslist.org or Amazon.com and get just a little less than the original price, assuming it's still in decent working condition. The person buying the phone isn't likely to have any idea that it's stolen.

According to D.C. Criminal Code 22-3212, if the value of the item is worth more than $1,000, its theft will be considered a first-degree theft, which means you face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Cell phones, though, are generally going to fall within the under $1,000 range, which will make a theft a second-degree theft, which will result in a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

It's important to note, however, that if you take a cell phone by force or directly from a person, that's considered robbery. The sentences for robbery versus theft are much more severe.

In the past, when cell phones were stolen, there wasn't much a person could do. There was no real incentive for the companies to do anything about it because whoever ended up using the stolen phone would end up reactivating it by swapping out the SIM card and become a new paying customer.

But at the urging of the Federal Communications Commission, five major cell phone wireless carriers are working to develop a database that will make it difficult or impossible to use a stolen device. The idea is to make the phone an undesirable target for theft because the resale value will be greatly reduced.

While all the details haven't yet been hammered out, it seems that the cell carriers are going to work out a process by which each device will have its own serial number. When that serial number is reported stolen, the phone won't be allowed to be reactivated. This will also make tracking stolen cell phones easier because officers will have proof in the form of a serial number.

It's expected that this database is going to be live within half a year or so, and will be fully integrated a year after that. Smaller carriers are expected to climb aboard with this as well.

Similar databases are already in use in Germany, the U.K., Australia and France.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. Theft: Cell Phone Robberies to Decrease With Integrated Database" »

February 20, 2012

Washington D.C. Robberies in Subway Targeted by Police

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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" »

November 25, 2011

University of Maryland Armed Robbery Leads to Arrest of Man in Washington D.C.

A 21-year-old man is in custody in Washington D.C. as authorities attempt to connect him to an armed robbery on the University of Maryland College Park campus, The Baltimore Sun reports.

D.C.'s Metropolitan police and George Washington police teamed with University of Maryland campus police to work on the case. A charge of armed robbery in Washington D.C. is a serious charge that can lead to prison time -- up 30 years.
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If you are arrested with armed robbery or suspicion of armed robbery, you should contact an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You have a right to remain silent and that can't be used against you. If you choose to speak with police upon arrest, you can have whatever you say recorded and used in support of a conviction.

When dealing with campus-based crimes, defendants often face more scrutiny than off-campus crimes. That's because there's a financial impact to crime happening on a college campus. If news spreads that a college campus is susceptible, it can hurt admissions, keep recruits away and lead to a decline in the university's image. Even cases of college drug crimes in Washington D.C. can be handled rather zealously compared to typical street crime.

And the charges can be even more damaging to a college-aged or juvenile defendant. While older adults may be more financially stable and able to take the difficulties of facing criminal charges, a college student may face lifelong consequences that can hamper their future.

In some cases, a mere arrest can lead to expulsion from a university and a conviction can get a person kicked out of the school. These could be in serious situations only, but it depends on the circumstances. Even convictions of minor crimes can lead to economic consequences that can make affording college difficult or lead to disqualification from a scholarship.

In the University of Maryland case, a man was being held by Washington D.C. police on an unrelated robbery charge when police in Maryland say they found evidence linking him to an attack where a student was robbed at knifepoint.

The man faces charges of armed robbery, first-degree assault, theft and other, less-serious offenses, the newspaper reports. Campus police are still looking for a second suspect.

Two men who were wearing masks and dark clothing approached a male student who was walking near dorms one weeknight around midnight, the newspaper states. News reports state that a similar attack took place at George Washington University in Washington D.C., but it's unclear if there is a connection.

Because the suspects in this case were masked, wearing dark clothing, it was late at night and it was a surprise attack, it's unlikely that witnesses will be able to help here. Unless there was something distinct about the attackers, anyone could have committed the crime.

In armed robbery cases, the penalties are so severe that every aspect of the case must be looked at and probed for evidence that can help the defendant. And the defendant must have sound legal representation at every stage of the case.

Continue reading "University of Maryland Armed Robbery Leads to Arrest of Man in Washington D.C." »

October 31, 2011

Masked Suspects Attempt to Commit Robbery on Washington, DC Motorist While Yelling Trick or Treat

885249_pumpkin.jpgAccording a recent story in the Washington Times, three masked men walked up to a car in Northwest Washington, DC yelling trick or treat. While the car was stopped a traffic light, the men allegedly grabbed the driver's shirt and tried to pull him out of the car. The driver managed to drive away unharmed. The three suspects are said to have fled the scene and are being sought by the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles robbery charges, I want to discuss how a key issue in a case like this is often the way in which the police identify a suspect. Assuming the police were able to get a lead on the men who are alleged to have done this (and this is only a hypothetical), they would need the victim to make an identification of the suspects if they want to have a decent case in court. The proper way to do this might be to take a series of photos and include the defendant's photo in a photo array. Usually it is six pictures of people who are supposed to look similar and one of them is the suspect. They should preserve the photo array or "six pack" so the defense attorney can see it later. They should never put more than one suspect in the same photo array, and they should not have any pictures that obviously look like mug shots. It should be a neutral setting.

Another thing the police could do to identify a suspect would be to put them a line-up. The line-up should also be composed of people who are similar in height, weight, and complexion to the suspect, and there should not be more than one suspect in one line-up. The police should also take care to assure that the victim or witness does not see the suspect wearing handcuffs or being escorted by police because this is considered suggestive and could taint the indication.

The most unreliable thing that police could do is a "show-up" identification. This is where the police take the suspect in handcuffs and bring (drag) him to the victim who is usually hidden behind a tinted window or window blinds and the victim is asked if this is the guy who robbed him. This could not possibly be more suggestive. The police often do this claiming that it was an emergency and there was not time to set up a proper line-up. Your DC defense attorney should file a motion to suppress the identification. As I have discussed in other posts in this blog, a successful motion to suppress evidence can make a major difference in a criminal case and can also increase the chance of the defendant winning the case.

In Washington, DC, robbery charges carry a potential penalty of 2 to 30 years in prison depending on the defendant' prior criminal history and whether a gun or other weapon was used during the crime. Obviously, robbery while armed is considered a more serious felony than unarmed robbery.

June 29, 2011

Hammer Used in Two Alleged Robberies in the Washington, DC Metro Area: On Robbery and Assault Charges

hammer.jpgAccording to a recent article in the Washington Post, a restaurant on Rockville Pike was closing for the evening when robbers smashed through a door with a hammer and then allegedly used the hammer to attack employees before stealing the cash. Police believe these are the same men who committed a similar robbery at another restaurant in the Washington, DC metro area six days earlier. In the earlier robbery, both a hammer and a gun were used. The robbers are said to have grabbed the manager and forced the other workers into a freezer. After opening the safe, the manager was also forced into the freezer. Employees were struck in the face and hand with the hammer.

As a Washington, DC robbery lawyer, I would like to discuss the different types of robbery charges and their potential sentences. All robbery crimes involve the use of force or violence to steal (theft) from a person. This includes actual use of force, like punching, or the threat of force. If there was no weapon used, an unarmed robbery charge carries a potential sentence ranging from 2 to 15 years. However, if the defendant has a prior felony conviction, the government can file "repeat papers" which can significantly increase the maximum sentence.

If a weapon is used to commit a robbery, this is called armed robbery, and a conviction could result in a 30-year prison sentence. The weapon could be a gun or knife, but it could also be an everyday object being used as a weapon, like a hammer. These are very serious charges in the District of Columbia. It is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible if you have been charged with a robbery. You should always request to speak with a criminal defense attorney before answering any police questions.