Recently in Traffic Offenses Category

January 3, 2013

D.C. Hit-and-Run Interrogation Requires Experienced Lawyer

Too many people make the mistake of assuming that requesting or demanding a D.C. criminal defense lawyer prior to being questioned by police is a red-flag for guilt -- or at least, that's how police would see it. dontmessseries.jpg

But here's the truth: Often, police investigators already have their theory in mind. It's an impossibly rare scenario that you'd be slick-tongued enough to talk them out of whatever views they already hold. So it's best to let someone else - someone experienced - do the talking for you.

This is true in every criminal case - whether you're actually guilty or not.

Lately, however, we have been hearing a lot from clients accused by police of hit-and-run in D.C. Barring proof of alcohol use or the death of a person (as in a recent fatal hit-and-run case on New York Avenue NW), you're looking at one of two charges: leaving after colliding - property damage (LAC-PD) or leaving after colliding - personal injury (LAC-PI). The primary difference in the two charges is whether someone else was injured. Depending on the severity, you could be looking at anywhere from a month to a year behind bars.

There are many reasons why someone may choose to flee. Often, it has to do with simple fear. These are usually people who have never been in trouble before, and they panic. In other cases, they may have been drinking. Or, they may honestly not realize what their obligations are, especially if no one was hurt (you're still supposed to stop and provide your information or call police if the property owner is not available).

What ends up happening is that the police find you. In other cases, they may receive a tip or have video surveillance of the incident. In these cases, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department will issue a letter from their hit and run coordinator. This letter will ask you to come to the station for an interview. Or, officers may arrive at your door, requesting to talk.

Do not do this without a lawyer. Call us immediately. Don't ask any questions. Don't deny it. Don't admit it. Don't say anything before you speak with an attorney.

This is going to improve your chances of having the charges reduced or dismissed.

You're speaking with them is almost always only going to serve to supply the officers with more evidence - even if you never admit to being behind the wheel or hitting the other vehicle or property. Even answering seemingly benign questions such as where you work, what you were doing earlier in the day, do you have any medical conditions, etc., could be potentially damaging to your case. The reason is that officers may be able to effectively trap you into a certain storyline. As seasoned attorneys, we know how to answer - or not answer - questions in such a way that it will not serve to bolster their case against you.

You don't have to lie. In fact, this is a very bad idea because it harms any further credibility you may have.

Just let us do the talking.

Continue reading "D.C. Hit-and-Run Interrogation Requires Experienced Lawyer" »

January 1, 2013

D.C. Speed Cameras Challenged by Cop

We've heard many gripes about the nearly 50 speed cameras positioned throughout the District of Columbia. However, our D.C. traffic ticket attorneys would not have expected the source behind the latest voice of contention: a D.C. Metro police sergeant. camera1.jpg

What's more, if this particular complaint is successful, it could mean that thousands of these cases could be dismissed, and the district would be forced to return potentially millions of dollars.

According to the Washington Post, the sergeant has come forward saying what is occurring is an injustice.

He said he received a ticket for speeding from the camera at the Third Street Tunnel. He was able to beat that ticket because the camera was set up to enforce the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit that is normally in effect there. However, there was construction going on at the time of the ticket. Therefore, the camera should have been posted to enforce a 40-mile-per-hour speed limit. Even though this gave drivers a 5-mile-per-hour benefit, the fact is that Title 18 of D.C. Municipal Regulations requires the city to enforce the posted speed. It didn't do that in this case, and which rendered the ticket to the officer invalid.

That kind of leeway, a court agreed, creates an inherent unfairness in the system. If the cameras are not entirely accurate - for whatever reason - they are subsequently inaccurate and therefore invalid.

The sergeant's ticket was dismissed at a hearing last month.

If that decision is upheld, the district could potentially have to return fines taken from an estimated 15,000 motorists ticketed after passing through the Third Street Tunnel. That would bear out to nearly $2 million, though that's a rough estimate.

City officials are arguing, however, that the sergeant's ticket was in fact proper. They say the machines can't be calibrated to know when construction crews are present and when they aren't, so having them set to the regularly posted speed limit makes them valid, the city says. (That stretch of I-395 is an active construction zone, and there is no timeline for when the work will be wrapped up.)

But again, this gets us back to the whole argument of whether speed cameras are even a good idea to begin with. There is no discretion. There is a high potential for misidentification. And clearly, there is ample opportunity for inaccuracy.

Back in November, amid a fury of complaints over the cameras and the sky-high revenues they rake in for the city, the mayor announced a number of the speeding camera fines would be slashed. Just tin the last year, the district pulled in almost $85 million from the cameras. A lone camera on New York Avenue generated nearly $12 million over the course of two years.

As a result of the controversy, $75 tickets for going 10 miles per hour over the limit were dropped to $50. The $125 charged for going 11 to 15 miles over the limit was cut down to $100.

Charges for traveling between 16 to 25 miles per hour over the speed limit stayed the same at between $150 to $200. However, those driving more than 25 miles per hour over the speed limit got slapped with higher fines of $300.

Those changes are expected to result in about $24 million less in revenue for the district this year.

Continue reading "D.C. Speed Cameras Challenged by Cop" »

December 12, 2012

Fewer D.C. Traffic Tickets Likely With Increased Speed Limits

You may be less likely to get a traffic ticket in D.C., as district leaders are set to increase speed limits on parts of a couple well-traveled thoroughfares. speedometer.jpg

Our D.C. traffic defense attorneys understand that the two roads are DC-295 and Benning Road near the old Pepco power plant.

A big part of the problem has been the crush of complaints received regarding the automated speed enforcement cameras. So many "violators" have been ticketed that in the most recent fiscal year, the district raked in nearly $180 million in fines. The amount of each violation is based on how fast the vehicle is reportedly traveling. The faster the speed, the higher the fine. In some cases, people have received multiple $250 tickets.

Amid the chorus of complaints, Mayor Vincent Gray issued an executive order that reduced the fines. Additionally, city council is still deciding whether to push forward with legislation that would even further reduce those fines.

A huge part of the problem is that Benning Road is an eight-lane roadway. Yet, the speed limit is just 30 miles per hour. With the cameras posted above, it's essentially nothing more than a speed trap and a revenue hog.

The mayor now says that in the widest parts of the roadway, the speed limit will be increased - by a whole 5 miles per hour, to 35 miles per hour.

It's a similar story on DC-295, where posted speed limits range from 40 to 45 to 50 miles per hour. There, the mayor has said he plans to implement a consistent speed along that road, to 50 miles per hour.

These new speed limits should be in place by the second week of December.

The mayor said he is also carrying out studies to discern whether speed limits on other district roadways require adjustment.

D.C. traffic lawyers know that most people simply pay speeding tickets simply to be done with it. What they may not realize is that they can prompt your insurance company to hike up your premiums and they may even prevent you from doing certain types of jobs, if you rack up enough of them. People may also face the possibility of criminal charges. If you are traveling more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit, you face up to three months in jail. You may also face a charge of reckless driving.

Getting a ticket from a speed camera does not mean you automatically are convicted.

In fact, it's worth noting that in Maryland, major problems have been recently uncovered in their construction zone speed cameras. According to The Washington Times, the contractor who manages the program was not adequately vetted and the equipment wasn't properly calibrated prior to it going into operation. That's according to a recent audit. This means there could be nearly $1 million in state revenue that could be lost as a result of this oversight. More importantly for the public, it could mean that a large number of traffic tickets can be successfully challenged in court.

The work zone cameras in so-called Maryland SafetyZones automatically slap speeders with a $40 ticket. Again, many people simply paid these believing that they had no choice and it wasn't worth the hassle to take it to court. But they end up paying more in insurance than they would have had they simply paid a lawyer. By doing the latter, it may be a wash, but at least they don't have the offense lingering on their driving record.

A study last year conducted by the U.S. PIRG, numerous traffic enforcement cameras are riddled with problems, including the fact that they actually cause more accidents because motorists slam on their brakes trying not to get a ticket.

Arizona and several cities in California terminated their contracts as a result.

Continue reading "Fewer D.C. Traffic Tickets Likely With Increased Speed Limits" »

May 15, 2012

D.C. Criminal Defense Lawyers: Longer Bar Hours and More Speed Cameras

D.C. criminal defense attorneys understand that the city council has approved not only longer bar hours, but the installation of more speed cameras. cameras.jpg

This particular combination could result in more individuals requiring a D.C. criminal defense.

The idea behind both measures was to boost the District's bank accounts. Of course, guess where that money would come from?

That's right. You.

With regard to the alcohol sales, this had to do with a highly contentious debate among officials about whether to extend bar and liquor store hours. Opponents believed such a measure would tarnish the city's efforts to remain family-friendly and inevitably result in more D.C. DUIs. Supporters, however, argued that the city had not been "a 9 to 5 town" in years, and it was time to start offering more in the way of night life.

With the council facing an estimated $170 million deficit in the budget, it agreed to permit extended hours for alcohol - but only for the weekends and during federal and District holidays. For the designated times, alcohol sales at D.C. bars will be allowed to continue until 4 a.m. In exchange, a higher sales tax is being imposed that will go directly to the city.

Additionally, liquor stores will be allowed to open their doors as early as 7 a.m. That's two hours before the current law allowed.

With regard to the speed cameras, the District is hoping to raise an estimated $30 million by expanding the program. The mayor insisted that the sole purpose of this was to boost public safety, though that's doubtful given the amount of money that is potentially at stake here.

One of the councilman said that he hoped the city could explore potentially reducing the amount of the fines doled out, as the number of cameras expands. The fines don't have to be quite as exorbitant, he said, if there is more certainty of being caught. In fact, cameras will be added to another 25 locations throughout the District.

However, our D.C. traffic ticketdefense attorneys realize that traffic cameras are wrought with legal issues that we may be able to challenge in court.

As we understand it, violators at these new locations will be issued warnings until June 6. Then at that time, anyone photographed violating the speed at those locations will be sent a citation and a fine.

Speed limits in those areas range from 25 miles per hour to 40 miles per hour.

Unlike in Maryland, there is no wiggle room in D.C. between the legal limit and the speed citation. While Maryland has its cameras set to give citations to vehicles going 12 miles per hour over the limit, D.C. cameras are set to issue citations on the basis of that strict, posted limit.

Continue reading "D.C. Criminal Defense Lawyers: Longer Bar Hours and More Speed Cameras" »

March 11, 2012

D.C. Criminal Traffic Charges for Councilwoman

A councilwoman for Prince George is facing Maryland criminal traffic charges in a case that has stirred controversy and garnered unwanted headlines for the public official.


Washington D.C. criminal defense attorneys knows that criminal traffic tickets are more than just an inconvenience. As this case illustrates, they can be a stain on your career and reputation. Because they are public record, any employer can look them up, and they could even serve as a basis to deny you employment, depending on your line of work and the nature of the charges.

An experienced Washington traffic defense attorney can help you determine your best options, and fight to have charges dismissed or reduced.

In this case, Prince George County Councilwoman Karen Toles was stopped in late February for traveling more than 100 miles per hour in her county-owned vehicle. The officer who stopped her cited her for an unsafe lane change, but didn't give her anything for speeding. This would have resulted in a small fine and a warning.

But then a panel was asked to review the incident - likely given Toles' high-profile position - and then police announced they would be giving her another citation for reckless driving. The police chief said that the officer who made the stop should have issued a ticket for speeding, but didn't because he wasn't armed with his radar detector gun at the time of the incident.

More than likely, it had a great deal to do with the media attention on the situation, which hounded the councilwoman for comment following the incident.

She later gave a press conference statement, in which she apologized for what happened, and expressed a desire to move forward.

Toles later said she was running late to a meeting. She added, however, that didn't justify her actions.

Given those two charges, it could be enough to have her license suspended. A charge of reckless driving can be worth as many as six points on your license. Toles already reportedly has two points on her license for previous offenses.

Criminal speeding violations are those for which the driver is going more than 30 miles per hour over the posted speed limit. They can be punishable by a fine and three months in jail. In this case, however, the fact that the officer didn't have radar detection calls into question how anyone could tell exactly how fast the councilwoman was going. This would be an aspect of the case that an experienced traffic defense attorney might want to examine, were she to take it before a judge.

Reckless driving is considered operating a vehicle with careless disregard for the safety of others on the roadway. This can include the speeding mentioned above, or it could mean not stopping or slowing down for police or other emergency vehicles, following too closely or any other conduct that is deemed dangerous. In addition to the six points you could get on your license for this charge, you're also at risk for a 90-day jail sentence.

Continue reading "D.C. Criminal Traffic Charges for Councilwoman " »

January 5, 2012

D.C. Police Chases often Result in Serious Traffic Charges

A 54-year-old local man is facing a slew of charges, including attempted capital murder of a police officer, after a car chase that led to a fiery crash. This case illustrates an age-old truism: Police can charge you with whatever they want. What matters is what you are convicted of in a court of law. If you are facing motor-vehicle charges, contact a D.C. traffic defense attorney to discuss your rights.

Car chases are instigated by police. Yet when serious or fatal accidents occur as a result, a defendant can face a lifetime of charges. What's worse, passengers in the vehicle -- often little more than captives to a driver's decision to flee -- may also be charged with serious felony crimes. 937355_car_chase.jpg

Police report the D.C. man was driving a black sedan on I-95 about 1 a.m. when he drove off the road and into a cement Jersey wall before continuing on. The driver allegedly failed to stop for the trooper before driving into the rest area at the 154 mile marker near Dumfries. The vehicle was driven into a ditch and caught fire and police say the driver pulled a gun when the officer attempted to pull him from the car.

The driver then complied with the trooper's demands to put the gun down and surrendered without further incident. Might the defendant simply have been attempting to get rid of the gun, or alert the officer to its presence, as he was fleeing a burning vehicle?

In the wake of the incident, police have charged him with driving under the influence of drugs, illegal possession of Oxycontin, hit-and-run, reckless driving, attempting to elude a police officer, possession of stolen property and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The News & Messenger also reports the 54-year-old man faces an attempted capital murder charge.

This is classic. The government has hit the defendant with enough charges to make an upcoming plea offer sound reasonable in comparison. If you are facing attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, pleading guilty to DUI and possession of a firearm by a felon sounds like a nice break. Each case is unique, but the government's first offer is rarely it's best offer. Speaking to a qualified D.C. criminal defense attorney is your best option. Often your best defense is an aggressive offense.

While the presence of the handgun complicates this case, it is otherwise not unique when it comes to charges defendants face after a police chase.

Other common traffic-related charges in D.C. include:

-Criminal speeding

-Operating after Suspended License (OAS)

-Operating after Revoked License (OAR)

-Auto Theft


-Aggravated assault/Assault with a deadly weapon

-Vehicular manslaughter

Cases involving very serious or fatal injuries are always serious and can lead to manslaughter charges even when the victim is a passenger in the at-fault driver's vehicle. But even when an accident does not occur, refusing to stop for law enforcement draws their ire. Consequently, defendants are often charged with just about every conceivable crime officers at the scene can dream up.

Defense of those charges begins when you call an experienced defense attorney. Those who fail to properly defend themselves, can end up facing needless time behind bars.

Continue reading "D.C. Police Chases often Result in Serious Traffic Charges" »

November 17, 2011

Washington D.C. Traffic, DWI Will Increase As Holiday Season Approaches

As the holiday season approaches, many people have time off from work so they can slow down and enjoy some relaxation before the new year kicks everyone back into gear.

But traffic and police don't take a break for the holidays. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
Law enforcement officers will be on the lookout using increased patrols, sobriety checkpoints and other methods to try to arrest people for DUI in Washington D.C.

There will also be an increase in traffic. Last year, AAA estimated there would be 51 million people on the roads between Christmas and New Years, which can easily lead to an increase in vehicle accidents and traffic tickets. Many traffic violations in Washington D.C. can even lead to jail time and hefty fees.

If you are saddled with any traffic-related violations this holiday season, you should consult with an experienced Washington D.C. traffic ticket lawyer. There are defenses to these charges that must be investigated before a person considers the idea of accepting a plea deal or paying a waiver. Points on your license, increased insurance premiums and even job loss can result from a poor driving record.

The Associated Press recently reported about an incident that happened outside the Occupy DC protests where three protesters were struck by a motorist.

Because of conflicts in statements between protesters and the police, the news wire service reports, the driver won't face charges. Police have said that the collision was unavoidable. The three protesters allegedly were blocking the roadway even though the driver had a green light. They were hospitalized and later released.

The protesters, who dispute the story and say that the driver was impatient and sped toward them, were cited for obstructing traffic and walking against a do-not-walk sign.

A second Associated Press article claims that data released through an information request shows that police in Washington D.C. have arrested 3,500 drivers in the past two years whose cars were unregistered or who had expired tags. While most weren't locked up, the hassle is unwarranted for what is often a simple oversight.

In 250 of the cases, people were sent to jail. But the majority agreed to pay a fine or received a citation in lieu of a ticket or a trial date. The article goes on to state that officers in the district have the discretion to bring someone to jail for these violations, but don't the majority of the time.

It's unclear if Washington D.C. is the only jurisdiction in the country that allows for jail time for an expired tag. But an AAA official said he wasn't able to find one. He believes that only people charged with reckless driving or DUI should be locked up. He found it outrageous that police are taking people to jail for a minor traffic infraction.

Keep in mind this holiday season that police have a variety of ways to disturb your life and lock you up. Practice safe driving habits and try to stay out of trouble. But if you are arrested by police, contact an experienced D.C. defense lawyer immediately.

Continue reading "Washington D.C. Traffic, DWI Will Increase As Holiday Season Approaches" »

September 20, 2011

Study Shows that Washington, DC Crime Cameras are Not Anywhere Near as Effective as They Are in Other Cities.

cctv_camera.jpgAnyone who watched The Wire is familiar with the crime prevention cameras used in Baltimore. Washington, DC installed its own crime prevention cameras around the city in 2006. There had been some cameras in place following 9/11, but these were mostly aimed at preventing terrorism at federal buildings. According the Washington Times, a new study has revealed that these cameras have not had the effect of reducing crime, as they have in other cities. One major reason for this is that, unlike in other cities, Washington, DC crime prevention cameras are not always monitored. People learned this shortly after they were installed, and now the cameras are basically ignored.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney, I have handled numerous cases where cameras were present at the scene of the crime. As it turns out, when my investigator goes to get copies of the recordings, we often find out the camera in that particular area wasn't working. I recently had an unlawful possession of a firearm case where there was a camera located directly above where my client was arrested. It turns out that this particular camera hadn't worked in years. To make matters worse for the crime prevention programs, even if the camera was working, the authorities are often unable to find the footage that was recorded. Many of my clients also ask me about cameras in the cars. As it turns out the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police has chosen not install dash-cams in the vast majority of scout cars. If you are thinking that cost is the reason, there is generally federal public safety money that can be used for these cameras.

As I have discussed on previous posts to this blog, while crime prevention cameras do not seem to be working, the District has put a lot of effort into their traffic enforcement cameras. It seems like it's nearly impossible to drive down a city street without seeing the flash of a redlight or speed camera. In some areas such as in Tenleytown or by the Calvert Street Bridge, it often looks like a strobe light there are so many people getting photo tickets. The only good thing is that while the camera tickets have excessive fines, they don't assess points on your driver's license and there is no affect on your insurance premiums. The tickets will also not result in a citation like in the case of criminal speeding, which is going more than 30mph over the posted speed limit. In case you were not aware, the speed limit in the District of Columbia is 25mph unless otherwise marked. In some areas it is as high as 30mph. If you are arrested for criminal speeding or reckless driving, it will be by an officer using radar or laser. Your lawyer will discuss the facts of your specific case, but it is often possible to challenge the calibration of devices such as the Prolaser 3, which is commonly used by police.

July 20, 2011

An Alcohol Related Hit and Run in the Washington, DC Metro Area: on Leaving after Colliding Charges

crash_car.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, Alexander Coreas hit a stopped vehicle on the Washington, DC Beltway and drove away from the scene. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage. The stopped vehicle was driven by Charles Adjei-Twum, who was standing behind his car when he saw Coreas allegedly coming towards him and jumped into the back seat of his vehicle to avoid serious injury. According to reports, a witness called the police after the crash while following Coreas as he fled the scene. Coreas was arrested and charged with driving under the influence (DUI), and a number of other traffic violations including unsafe operation, hit-and-run (leaving after colliding), failure to control speed to avoid a collision, and failure to stop at a stop sign.

As a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney who handles DUI charges and traffic violations, I would like to discuss a leaving after colliding (LAC) charge. A LAC charge may involve personal injury or property damage. A hit and run charge that involves property damage is called a "LAC PD" charge in Washington, DC. If you have been charged with LAC PD, while this is a serious offense, it is important to remember than an arrest does not necessarily mean you will be convicted. One of the most important things your lawyer can assist you with is contacting your insurance company and obtaining proof that the owner of the vehicle that was hit has been compensated for any damage to his or her vehicle. This may help you obtain a favorable resolution to your case.

Leaving after colliding is a serious offense in Washington, DC because you are alleged to have left the scene of an accident rather than staying to make sure everybody is okay. Your DC traffic violations lawyer may be able help you take responsibility in court in a way that can reduce the charges you are facing.

May 5, 2011

A morning in Washington, DC Traffic Court with the Protesters

dclicenseplate.jpgWhen I arrived at Washington, DC Traffic Court this morning for DUI arraignments, I found the court filled with people. Traffic court is normally pretty busy in DC but this was out of the ordinary. I quickly learned that the many of the protesters arrested by the US Capital Police during a demonstration opposing federal cuts to the city budget were being arraigned. It was at that protest that Mayor Gray, members of the DC City Council, and other members of the community were arrested for failure to obey to a police officer and blocking an intersection. The police apparently chose to arrest them on traffic violations rather than disturbing the piece or unlawful assembly so as not to be a First Amendment issue. Many of the protestors, including Mayor Gray, had already paid $50.00 to have the charges dropped as part of a deal offered by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for Washington, DC.

The 17 defendants who showed up in traffic court today were given a chance to have the case dropped for a payment of $100.00. Nine of them chose to pay. The others will be back in court next month. If they do not pay fine, they could eventually face jail time.

While this is not an everyday occurrence in traffic court, the concept of paying money to have a case dropped is quite common. In Washington, DC, this is called "Post and Forfeiture." The defendant is offered the chance to pay between $50.00 and $150.00 and the charges are dropped. There will be no conviction on the defendant's record. The defendant can later get the arrest expunged from their record with the help of a Washington, DC criminal defense attorney. I want to point out that this post and forfeiture procedure is usually reserved for offenses like using a fake ID or underage drinking. It will not generally be available for DUI charges. In the case of a DUI or DWI arrest in Washington, DC, your attorney can speak with out about other options like a differed sentencing agreement (DSA) which may be available.

April 22, 2011

Washington, DC Metro Driver Charged with Negligent Homicide after Traffic Violation Results in Death

metro bus.jpgAccording to a recent story in the Washington Post, Metrobus driver, Ronald W. Taylor, was charged with negligent homicide (involuntary vehicular manslaughter) after allegedly committing a DC traffic violation that fatally injured Bartlett M. Tabor.

It has been reported that Taylor was driving his bus in NW DC on the evening of September 26, 2008, when the bus hit a taxicab, plowed through an intersection, and eventually came to a stop on the lawn of the Federal Reserve Building. Tabor was a passenger in the taxi. In 2008, investigators concluded that Taylor had run a red light which caused the crash and he was quickly fired from Metro before being reinstated to a non-driver position. According to the article, this was not Taylor's first arrest as he had been charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of an unregistered gun and ammunition in the past. He took the case to trial and received a jury verdict of not guilty for that DC gun charge.

As a Washington DC traffic violations lawyer, I am used to hearing stories from people who were arrested on DUI charges that involved an accident. If the accident resulted in a death, the defendant could also be charged with negligent homicide. It is not as common to see a negligent homicide charge stem from an accident which is not alcohol-related. It will be interesting to see what exactly Taylor was accused of doing in this case. I should point out that one major exception to what I just said about non alcohol-related accidents and criminal charges involves texting while driving. Texting while driving is considered by some lawyers who handle to DC moving violations to basically be a new form of DUI charge.

February 7, 2011

Big Brother is Watching - on New Cameras Complements of the Washington, DC Metro Police

Red Light Camera.jpgWashington, DC motorists are well aware of the recent increases in traffic enforcement cameras located throughout the District. There are more than 30 cameras that allow the police to mail speeding tickets and red light violations to the registered owner of a vehicle. If you would like to see the location of these red light cameras, they are posted on the MDP website.

What may come as a surprise to DC residents is that the MPD is also planning on installing crime surveillance video cameras like those used in Baltimore and frequently featured on HBO's The Wire. These cameras can be remote controlled by the police and can be used to see what is happening in target neighborhoods. They also have sound detectors capable of detecting gunshots and honing on the source. What may come as a bigger surprise is that the feed from these video cameras, along with some privately owned security cameras, is being uploaded to state and federal monitoring systems so that agencies can monitor activity in multiple cities.

The use of these cameras present some issues that Washington, DC criminal defense lawyers may face in court. The Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches. There are some questions as to whether the police can use a camera to look into the window of a private residence and charge the owner with a crime based upon what they see.

September 28, 2010

There's Nothing to See Here Folks: Maryland Judge Dismisses Charges Filed Against Air National Guard Sgt. For Videotaping His Own Traffic Stop in the DMV Area

In April of this past year, a Maryland state trooper pulled over Maryland Air National Guard Sgt. Anthony Graber for speeding on his motorcycle. The plain clothes trooper who exited his unmarked car with his gun drawn was unaware that Graber was recording the traffic stop on a helmet-mounted video camera. After receiving his ticket, Graber posted the video on You Tube. You can see the video yourself if you click on the play button above this post.

Several days after Graber posted the video, the Harford County State's Attorney filed felony charges against Graber alleging that he had violated the state's wiretapping statute. This week a Maryland judge dismissed the wiretapping charges on grounds that the police have no reasonable expectation in their official communications.

At this point you may be wondering what a helmet camera has to do with wiretapping. Wiretapping generally conjures up images of secret microphones hidden in lamps and police sitting in a van outside a mafia social club, and while that does happen, the law may actually address any audio or video recordings of conversations.

The purpose of these laws is to prevent the secret recording of seemingly private conversations without a warrant. Some states allow for the secret recording if at least one party to the conversation knows about the recording. This is called a "one party consent" jurisdiction. The theory behind this is that whenever you speak to somebody, you assume the risk that the other person may be recording the conversation. It was under this type of system that Colorado police were able to secretly record basketball player, Kobe Bryant, during a 2003 sexual assault investigation.

Continue reading "There's Nothing to See Here Folks: Maryland Judge Dismisses Charges Filed Against Air National Guard Sgt. For Videotaping His Own Traffic Stop in the DMV Area" »