DC Arrest

  • “Bitch Set Me Up:" Entrapment and Prostitution Stings in Washington, D.C.

    Marion Barry’s now infamous quote stemming from his 1990 drug possession case has been echoed by many of his fellow Washington, D.C. neighbors, albeit in a different context. These unfortunate defendants have found themselves caught up in one of the many prostitution stings conducted by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department. In their infinite wisdom, the D.C. police continue to allocate their resources (your tax payer dollars), to arresting johns who get in the wrong conversation with the wrong undercover police officer (arguably there is no right conversation with any undercover officer).
    Here’s how it works: a reasonably attractive female police officer dresses in a provocative manner, (think fishnets and halter tops), and walks the streets of the city, usually in areas where prostitutes are displaying their wares. She chats up any male (generally), that comes along, turning the conversation towards an exchange of sex for money. For example:

    Undercover: Is there something I can help you with?
    Defendant: Yeah. What are you offering?
    Undercover: You can’t see what I have?
    Defendant: Yeah, yeah, what can I get?
    Undercover: How much you got?
    Defendant: $20 bucks
    Undercover: For $20 I will . . . .

    And you can use your imagination for the rest. Once the undercover officer believes, in her mind, that a deal has been made, she gives the pre-arranged signal to other officers waiting nearby. These officers come from seemingly nowhere, place you in handcuffs, and put you in the squad car. Your plans for the rest of the night changed very quickly.

    The official charge for offering money for sex is Solicitation for Prostitution. D.C. Code Section 22-2701.01 defines soliciting for prostitution as inviting, enticing, offering, persuading, or agreeing to engage in prostitution. According to the case law, some exchange conveying the nature of the act to be performed and the price to be charged is sufficient to prove the offense. Money need not actually change hands. At trial, the only evidence that is usually presented by the government is the testimony of the undercover officer. For reasons that are unclear, MPD does not have the undercover wired up for sound, so there is no recording of the conversation. That means that your Washington, D.C. criminal lawyer relies almost exclusively on cross-examination of the officer to try to win your prostitution/solicitation case. Your lawyer will attack the officer’s memory and credibility, in an effort to convince the judge that there was no agreement to exchange money for sex.

    Clients often claim entrapment by the police in prostitution cases. They argue that they were not out looking to pay for sex, and would never have done so if they were not approached by the undercover officer. That may be the case, but entrapment in Washington, D.C. is very difficult to prove. Essentially, proving entrapment requires a showing that the defendant was not ready and willing to violate the law. If the defendant was ready and willing, and police officers simply gave him the opportunity to do so, no entrapment has occurred. And the law in D.C. recognizes the ability of the police to persuade, threat, and coerce a defendant into breaking the law. As long as they aren’t engaging in criminal activity themselves, D.C. police have a lot of leeway in undercover operations.

    One can certainly questions why the D.C. police are trying to convince D.C. citizens to engage in solicitation of prostitution. But there is no question that they can lawfully do so. Your D.C. solicitation of prostitution lawyer will examine all possible defenses, including entrapment , in vigorously defending against your solicitation charge.

  • A Matter of Trust: On Hiring a Washington, D.C. Criminal Defense Laywer

    If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve been arrested, and are figuring out what to do next. You’ve probably gone to google (or maybe Bing, but that seems unlikely), and searched for “D.C. criminal defense lawyer,” or “D.C. DUI lawyer,” or “D.C. prostitution lawyer,” etc. Chances are, pages and pages of lawyers have been generated by your search, and you have no idea where to start. Ratings and reviews are nice, but almost never tell the whole story. The lawyers’ websites probably have blogs and articles about the crime you’ve been charged with, but not much about the lawyer.  But after some looking around, you may decide to call one, two, or three of the D.C. criminal defense lawyers you find. And now the fun starts.

    Many clients who call me have a hundred questions, and want them all answered over the phone. You’ll find that most lawyers, like me, prefer not to do client consultations this way.  There are several reasons. First, criminal cases have a lot of facts, and we want to hear all of them, and probably take notes. Trying to listen and take notes over telephone can be difficult, and unclear connections make things even harder. Second, lawyers generally do not run free legal advice hotlines. Many of us offer free consultations, but this offer assumes that the person seeking our advice is serious about hiring legal representation. A person who can’t be bothered to come into my office and sit down with me for half an hour probably isn’t that serious about hiring me. They want free advice, but the reality is that free advice doesn’t pay the office rent.

    But the third and most important reason that I don’t do phone consultations is that I don’t want you to hire me before you’ve come into my office, shaken my hand, and decided whether you trust me. Hiring a criminal defense attorney could be one of the most important decisions you make in your life. Whether you face a misdemeanor like DUI or solicitation of prostitution, or a more serious felony, the result achieved in your case will have a lasting impact on your life. That result, whatever it is, will be achieved by you and your lawyer working together to make the important decisions that every criminal cases requires.

    When you sit across from me in my office, I’m going to tell you what to expect. I’ll tell you the chances of beating your case, the punishment you are probably looking at if convicted, and all the things I’m going to do on your case if you hire me. But what I tell you doesn’t mean anything if you don’t trust me. You have to trust that your criminal defense lawyer knows what he’s talking about and is going to put his full effort behind your case. You have to trust that when he tells you your chances of winning at trial are good or bad, that estimate is based on knowledge and experience.

    So my advice on hiring a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. or northern Virginia, is not to hire the lawyer because they have the fanciest website. Or because they are the cheapest or the most expensive (yes, some people take comfort in being charged top dollar). Hire the lawyer who you think you can trust. Because you will be on a long, bumpy ride together.

  • A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: Video Evidence in Washington, D.C. DUI Cases

    Police reports rarely paint a flattering picture of a D.C. DUI defendant. They usually describe a stumbling drunk who can’t keep his or her balance while walking from point A to point B. The officer will also highlight all the things the defendant did wrong during the one-legged stand and walk and turn tests, including raising his arms, stepping off the line, or putting his foot down repeatedly. The officer will then regurgitate that report at trial, in an attempt to show that the DUI suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. While your Washington, D.C. DUI lawyer will cross-examine the police officer, and do his best to poke wholes in the officer;s testimony, evidence that directly contradicts that tesimony is much more helpful.

    Occasionally, that contradictory evidence comes in the form of video. Video can come from a few different sources, including the police station where the defendant is booked, street cameras located at the scene of arrest, or since the fall of 2014, body cameras worn by some D.C. police officers. Finding out whether video exists, and getting it from the government is one of the battles your DUI attorney will fight for you. And it often is a battle, since defense requests for the video are often met with denials that any video exists, or that it can be obtained. While station-house video will usually be turned over without too much effort, getting street camera video is another story.

    Your D.C. DUI lawyer should, as early as possible, notify the prosecutor that you want the governmnt to preserve all of the video evidence that exists. This should preferably be done at arraignment, or as soon as you’ve hired an attorney, and should be in writing. Before I know whether video evidence exists in a DUI case, I hand the government a letter requesting that they preserve it. This accomplishes two things: 1) it sends a message that your DUI lawyer knows what he is doing, and hopefully spurs the prosecutor to take the necessary efforts to preserve the video; and 2) it gives your lawyer an excellent argument that your case should be dismissed if the government drops the ball and fails to preserve this important evidence.

    If video does exist, and is obtained by your DUI attorney, it may paint a very different picture of a defendant’s behavior than the one drawn by the arresting officer. Instead of a stumbling, uncooperative drunk person, it may show a defendant who stood upright, walked without stumbling, and generally showed no signs of intoxication. This is valuable evidence. Of course, in certain cases video of a D.C. DUI defendant can be a curse rather than a blessing. Sometimes a defendant appears just as described by the officer, and the video only serves to bolster his testimony. But most often, the video obtained is of a fairly poor quality, and does not either make or break your case. Nevertheless, holding the government to its responsibility to provide this evidence may result in your D.C. DUI case being dismissed, or cause the prosecutor to extend a more favorable plea offer.

    It remains to be seen whether the D.C. body camera pilot program will become permanent, and how this will affect Washington, D.C. DUI cases. While I have not yet seen it, I’m told that video from the body cameras is of a much higher quality than station house or street cameras. Whether this helps or hurts DUI defendants will likely differ depending on the case.
    Whether video evidence exists in your case or not, you want your DWI attorney to aggressively pursue all the discovery you are entitled to.

  • Arrested in DC? What to Expect, Part I

    Getting caught up in the criminal justice system can be frightening and confusing. Knowing what to expect won’t make the process any easier, but it can decrease your anxiety, and help you make better informed decisions about your case, and about hiring a DC criminal lawyer. This is the first in a two-part series that tries to shed some light on what lies ahead.

    This post deals with the path of your criminal case in the DC court system if you have been charged with a misdemeanor. If you’re reading it, you’ve probably been arrested in Washington, DC for DUI, simple assault, domestic assault, solicitation, or another garden variety misdemeanor. That means one of two things happened. One, you spent a few hours locked up at the police station in the district in which you were arrested. They fingerprinted you, took your mugshot, and gave you a citation which informed you when you are required to be in court. Then they sent you on your way. If this is you, then consider yourself lucky (or at least luckier than some).

    The unlucky were not released from the police station, but were transported to the courthouse lock-up. There, you were penned up with 40 or more other arrestees for many hours in dehumanizing fashion, while you waited to be brought before a judge for your arraignment. While you were probably worried about how dangerous the person next to you might be, what you remember most about the experience is the smell.

    For those lucky enough to be released on a citation, your next step is appearing in court on the date and time indicated. At your arraignment, you will either be given a court-appointed counsel, or told that you do not qualify for a free lawyer based on your income. If you are given a lawyer, or have one with you, the court clerk will read the charge or charges against you, and your lawyer will enter your plea of “not-guilty.” Whether you intend to ever enter a guilty plea in your case, you will NEVER do so at the arraignment. After entering your not-guilty plea, the judge will to do two things: 1) set your next court date, known as a “status” date; and 2) advise you of your release conditions.

    Following your release conditions are very important. They may include confirming your address, drug testing, staying away from a particular individual or location, or all of the above. You will immediately report to the pretrial services office following your arraignment. They will answer any questions you have about your conditions. Not following the conditions imposed by the court could result in you being held in jail while your case is pending.

    At your status hearing, normally one of two things occurs. You accept a plea offer from the Government, and plead guilty to what you’ve been charged with, or to a lesser charge. Or you schedule your case for trial. Whether you plead guilty or go to trial is one of the most important decisions you will ever make, and your D.C. criminal lawyer will advise you on the pros and cons of both choices. Prior to your status hearing, your attorney will meet with you to discuss your case, and evaluate your chances of obtaining a successful outcome at trial. In some cases he will contact the prosecuting attorney and attempt to negotiate a favorable plea agreement or dismissal. Your lawyer will advise you on the best course of action, based on his or her experience, the plea offer, and the facts of your case. But ultimately, the decision to plead guilty or go to trial is yours, and yours alone.

    If you choose to plead guilty at the status hearing, it is likely that you will be sentenced on that day. The prosecutor will ask the judge to sentence you in accordance with the plea agreement. Your lawyer will also recommend a sentence, that will likely be more favorable to you than what the prosecutor is requesting. The Judge will consider both sentencing arguments, and impose whatever sentence he or she feels is appropriate, based on the facts of the case and your criminal history.

    If you choose to go to trial, it will likely be scheduled within 45 to 60 days from the status hearing. During that time your lawyer will prepare your defense, which includes writing any necessary motions, interviewing witnesses, and preparing cross-examination questions. Trial preparation is the key to giving you the best chance of obtaining a not-guilty verdict. Choosing a DC criminal lawyer who understands this, and is willing to put in the necessary time and effort on your case will give you your best chance at a favorable outcome.

  • Arrested in DC? What to Expect, Part II

    This is the second of a two part series on what to expect if you are arrested in Washington, D.C. Part I, outlined the journey of your case if you have been charged with a misdemeanor. If you have been charged with a felony in D.C. your case will proceed somewhat differently.


    First, if charged with a D.C. felony, it is much more likely that you will be arrested and locked-up prior to your first court appearance. It is very rare for a felony defendant to be issued a citation, which allows a defendant to appear in court on his or her own at a later date. Depending on the seriousness of the offense, it is also possible that a D.C. felony defendant will be held in the D.C. jail while the case is pending. If you are held in custody, then your next court date will be within five business days, and is called your detention/preliminary hearing. At that hearing, the government is required to put on evidence demonstrating to a judge that there is probable cause for your case to move forward to a Grand Jury. At that time, your D.C. criminal defense lawyer will also argue to the judge that you should be released while your case is pending. Depending on a variety of factors, the judge may determine that you should continue to be held in jail, released to a halfway-house, placed under the High Intensity Supervision Program, or released on your promise to return to court.


    If you are not locked-up, your first court date in your D.C. felony case will simply be your preliminary hearing, without the detention component. Again, the government must put on enough evidence to convince the judge that there was probable cause to arrest you, and that your case should proceed to the Grand Jury. While I don’t know the actual numbers, I always tell clients that there is a 99% chance that the judge will find probable cause. Sometimes I’m not even sure if the judge bothers to pay attention to the hearing before agreeing with the government that probable cause exists.


    Once the judge finds probable cause, there is usually a period of time before your case goes in front of the Grand Jury. While the mechanics of the Grand Jury system are beyond the scope of this post, what you need to know is that a group of your peers will be presented with evidence of your alleged crime, and asked to issue a formal indictment against you. The indictment is the official charge against you, and what your eventual trial or plea will be based on. If you have any hope that the Grand Jury will decide in your favor, and choose not to issue the indictment, you shouldn’t. As the saying goes, a Grand Jury will indict a ham sandwich. And they will indict you.


    After you are indicted, the court will schedule your arraignment. At your arraignment, your attorney will enter a not-guilty plea of your behalf, assert your constitutional rights, make a formal discovery request, and request a status hearing. Just like in a misdemeanor case, your status hearing will be the court date on which you either enter a guilty plea, or schedule your case for trial. Between your arraignment and status hearings, your D.C. criminal attorney will either be negotiating with the government for a favorable plea deal, or investigating your case to prepare for trial.


    If you choose to enter a guilty plea based on the advice of your lawyer, it is highly unlikely that you will be sentenced on the day that you plead. Instead, the judge will order that the probation department do a pre-sentence investigation, and prepare a pre-sentence report. The report is essentially a background check, that includes information about your past criminal history, employment, family life, and future prospects. Your attorney, the judge, and the government will all receive copies of the report prior to sentencing, and the judge will almost certainly base much of his sentencing decision on what the report contains.


    If you and your defense lawyer choose to take your case to trial, your will be tried by a 12 member panel of your peers. Trying a felony jury trial requires skill and experience, and your D.C. criminal defense attorney should have both. A happy ending for you and your lawyer ends in the words, “Not Guilty.”

  • Bad Words and Where They Often Lead: D.C. Threats & Simple Assault

    Stick and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. While that may be true on the playground, Washington, D.C. lawmakers see things a little differently. In the District of Columbia, the law recognizes that words have power, and words that threaten others can be very powerful. Consequently, when you use words intended to communicate threats to others, you could be facing misdemeanor and even felony D.C. Threats charges. 

    To convict you of misdemeanor or felony threats, the government must prove that you (1) intentionally (2) communicated threatening words to another that would (3) cause a person to reasonably believe that they would be seriously harmed if you carried out your threat.

  • Breaking Bad: Self-Defense in Washington, D.C. Assault Cases

    While there is no such thing as a typical D.C. assault, “victims” are rarely bystanders who are randomly assaulted by strangers. No, most clients looking for a Washington, D.C. assault lawyer were 1) involved in a domestic situation, or 2) in a bar or club fight. While a domestic assault, by definition, involves people who already know each other, a bar or club fight usually involves strangers. And often lots of alcohol.

    Especially in Washington, D.C., assault lawyers represent clients who went looking for some fun, but found legal trouble instead. Whether in the bars of Adams Morgan or the clubs on K Street, a disagreement or misunderstanding with a fellow reveler often leads to punches thrown and blows landed. Washington Metropolitan Police are summoned, witnesses are questioned, and arrests are made. By the very nature of these incidents, witnesses and participants are generally unreliable historians, and what police are told is rarely the whole story. But because that can be difficult to figure out, the wrong person is often arrested.

    Your Washington, D.C. criminal assault lawyer will likely be very familiar with the theory of self-defense. It is the most common defense to assault charges, and probably the most successful. That’s because almost all bar and club fights may start with one person throwing a punch, but end with two or more people getting involved in the fracas. When everyone who saw the fight is intoxicated to some extent or another, determining who struck first is virtually impossible. Police understand this, so sometimes they simply arrest the person who isn’t bleeding. Sometimes that’s right, but not always.

    To prove self-defense in a Washington, D.C. assault case, evidence must be presented at trial that the defendant actually believed they were in imminent danger of bodily harm and that belief was reasonable. In addition, the amount of force used by the defendant must also be reasonable. In order to successfully put on self-defense, all of the elements must be met. For instance, if a drunk moron gets in your face and gives you a shove while in line for the bathroom, you probably have the right to push him back, and maybe have the right to punch him. But you don’t have the right to break your bud-light bottle on the table, and stick it in his throat. That’s not reasonable. You may have had a reasonable belief that you were in danger of bodily harm, but you got a little carried away on the response.

    The beauty of self-defense is that, if your Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer manages to elicit any testimony that supports the theory, it becomes the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you weren’t acting in self-defense.  If the prosecutor fails to do so, the judge must find you not guilty.

    Another common defense to Washington, D.C. assault cases, and related to self-defense, is “defense of others.” What this means is that if you have a reasonable belief that someone else is in danger of imminent bodily harm, you have the right to defend them. So if that drunk moron gets in your girlfriend’s face, and you think he’s going to get rough, then you have the right to jump in. The elements of proof are the same for defense of others as they are for self-defense. And again, the burden shifts to the government if any evidence is introduced that suggests your actions were in defense of others.

     

    Bar and club assault cases are the some of the hardest cases for the government to prove. The drunker the witnesses were, the less reliable their testimony is. Your D.C. assault lawyer will exploit this fact, and hopefully create enough reasonable doubt to win your case.

  • Defending your Washington, D.C. DUI Charge

    If you look around the next time you are at a restaurant, bar, party, your office, or even your church, chances are you’ll see someone there who has been arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, young or old, making the choice to drive after one or several drinks, may land you in jail. From the minimum wage employee to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, drinking and driving after having one or several drinks is a temptation that affects millions of law-abiding citizens. And due to the lobbying efforts of groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and the zero tolerance stance of state legislatures, the penalties for DUI continue to increase in severity. Washington, D.C. has not escaped this trend, which is bad news for D.C. DUI defendants.


    After fairly recent changes in D.C. DUI law, those charged with a first offense D.C. DUI face up to 180 days in jail, and/or a $1000 fine. If you submit to a breath test, and your blood alcohol content (BAC) is between .20 and .25, you face a mandatory minimum jail time of 10 days. If your BAC is over .25, you will serve at least 15 days if convicted. In addition, your privilege to drive in the District of Columbia will be suspended for at least six months. Refusing to submit to the breath test will result in a 12 month suspension of your D.C. license. Penalties increase for second and subsequent DC DUI offenses , regardless of your BAC.


    But while DUI is a criminal offense, simply drinking before driving is not per se illegal. As your D.C. DUI lawyer will advise you, arresting you for DUI, and convicting you of DUI are two very different things. In order to convict you of DUI in the District of Columbia, the government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They can do this in two ways: 1) by showing that your BAC was .08 or higher, or that you were driving with any amount of certain drugs in your system; and 2) by showing that your driving behavior and/or performance of the field sobriety tests indicate(s) that you were driving under the influence.


    Your experienced D.C. DUI lawyer will defend you against both methods of proving your guilt. If breath test scores are available, your lawyer will obtain all the available information about the breath test machine to ensure that it was working properly on and before the night your test was given. Your lawyer will also make sure that the test was administered properly, and that the officer who operated the breath test machine was qualified to do so. The ultimate goal of your DUI lawyer is to prevent your breath test scores from being admitted into evidence.


    While it is possible to keep breath test scores out of your case, your chances of winning at trial increase dramatically if there are no breath test scores available. Without the “scientific” evidence, the government will have a more difficult time proving that you were driving under the influence. That’s because the government’s case will be based solely on the observations of the police officer or officers who had contact with you before, during, and immediately after your arrest. They will testify mainly about your driving behavior, your appearance, your demeanor, and your performance on the battery of road side tests. This testimony will be 100% subjective, and your DC DUI lawyer will conduct a thorough and aggressive cross-examination of these officers. My next blog post will discuss the most common aspects of officers’ DUI testimony, and how your experienced D.C. DUI lawyer will attack it.

  • Drug Possession/Distribution

    Possession of a controlled substance (cocaine, heroin, prescription drugs, etc.) in Washington, D.C. is usually punished as a misdemeanor, and carries a penalty of up to 180 days in jail, or a $1000 fine, or both. However, possession of liquid PCP is a felony, and carries up to 10 years in prison. As of 2014, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in the District of Columbia is legal for those 21 or older. In Virginia, even simple possession of a controlled substance is a felony.

    In both Washington, D.C. and Virginia, possession with intent to distribute (PWID), or distribution of a controlled substance is a felony, except for certain quantities of marijuana.

    First time offenders convicted of simple possession generally do not receive jail time, but those convicted of PWID or distribution could see significant prison time, depending on their criminal record and the circumstances of the case. Certain cases may be prosecuted under Federal law, which often means significant mandatory minimum prison sentences.

    While proving simple possession in court may offer few challenges to the government, PWID and distribution cases often can be more difficult to prove. Your Washington, D.C. area criminal defense lawyer will analyze the facts of your case, and prepare a defense to these very serious charges.

    Attorney Jay Mykytiuk of JPMLegal  has experience in defending both Federal and State drug offenses in Washington, D.C. and in Northern Virginia.

  • Gone in 60 Seconds: DC Council Considers Impounding Vehicles in Solicitation of Prostitution Cases

    Washington, D.C. Police continue to crack down on prostitution, and their efforts are being supported by D.C. Councilman, Jack Evans. In the month of July, 2015 D.C. police have arrested more than 30 people in prostitution stings. All the arrests appear to have been men allegedly seeking sex for money, otherwise known as solicitation of prostitution.

    Councilman, Jack Evans, in an apparent effort to further humiliate solicitation defendants, has proposed a measure that will allow MPD to tow and impound the vehicles of those arrested for solicitation. Referred to as the “Honey I Lost the Car,” bill, it will only require that MPD officers determine that there is “probable cause” to believe that the car was used by a so-called john. Evans reportedly indicated that the purpose of the bill is “to deter people from trying to pick up prostitutes because they would be embarrassed to lose their car for the crime.”

    Washington D.C. would not be the first city to enact such a measure to deter solicitation of prostitution. Like in those cities, prostitution defendants could have their car towed and impounded even before they are found guilty of a charged crime.  In fact, even if the case is dismissed or you are ultimately found not-guilty by a judge, you would still lose your car.

    Evans’s proposed bill is just another battle in D.C.’s recent escalation of the war on prostitution. Although the murder rate in D.C. will likely rise for the second consecutive year, MPD continues to allocate resources and man-power to combat consensual sex among adults.  Instead of deploying more patrols to high crime areas, MPD is placing sex ads on the internet and lying-in-wait at tax-payer-paid-for hotel rooms for men who answer the ads.

    Solicitation of prostitution charges expose a defendant to up to 90 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.  Even just an arrest for solicitation will usually stay on your record for at least two years, and a conviction may have to be disclosed on a job or other application. Add the expense of a lawyer, the social stigma, and perhaps soon, a lost automobile, and the consequences of getting caught up in an MPD prostitution sting can be devastating.

    There are a couple of common misconceptions that seem to be shared by solicitation defendants I have represented. The first, is that an undercover police officer has to reveal her identity if asked. Where this rumor got started, I’m not sure, but it is completely FALSE.  Police officers are absolutely not required to tell you that they are police officers, even if asked. They are told to lie, they are trained on how to lie, and they will always lie. Their lies are not a defense, and asking them whether they are police will not, in any way, protect you.

    The second defense that is usually misunderstood by solicitation defendants is called entrapment. I’ve posted a blog on this before, but it’s worth repeating.  Just because an undercover police officer approaches you and asks you “what you want,” does not mean that you have been entrapped. A person is entrapped if law enforcement officials induce a person to commit a crime which he would not otherwise have committed. Entrapment does not occur if the person is ready and willing to violate the law, and the police merely afford an opportunity for him to do so.  The theory is that if a defendant is not inclined to have sex for money, they will just say no, when asked. Should undercover police officers approach citizens and offer sex for money? Not in my opinion. But does the law allow it? Unfortunately, yes.

     

    While entrapment is not usually a viable defense, there are other defenses to solicitation charges. Each case is different, based on the individual facts, and some are more easily defended than others.

  • Ins, Outs, and What Have Yous: Collateral Consequences of a Washington, D.C. DUI Conviction

     

    Being arrested for DUI in Washington, D.C. is a miserable experience. It usually starts with a night in jail, followed by a trip to the impound lot to retrieve your car. Next comes your first trip to court, (maybe ever, for some) during which you are confused and perhaps a little frightened. Depending on your individual facts and circumstances, you may be subject to certain release conditions, including drug testing, substance abuse counseling, and/or weekly reporting to pretrial services. Now it’s time to find a D.C. DUI lawyer, and choosing the right one can be a daunting process. 

     

    Once you have a D.C. DUI attorney, the first thing you will want to know is whether you are going to jail. That’s understandable, since most people arrested for DUI in D.C. have never spent a day in jail, and the very prospect may be inconceivable.  Whether jail time is a possibility in your case depends on many different factors. Those include whether you have been convicted of DUI in the past, whether there was an accident, whether anyone was injured, whether you took a breath or urine test, and most importantly, whether the government can prove that you were driving under the influence. But while most defendants worry most about jail, there are other collateral consequences of a DUI conviction that are more likely and very burdensome.

     

    What defendants also worry about is whether a Washington, D.C. DUI conviction will cause their driver’s license to be suspended. The short answer is yes, but it’s more complicated than that. When you are arrested for a DUI in Washington, D.C., the arresting officer usually submits notice to the DMV informing them of your arrest. If you are licensed to drive in D.C., you have 10 days to request a hearing at the DMV. If you do not request a hearing within the 10 days, your license will automatically be suspended.  If that happens, it will be difficult to undo it, even if you are found not guilty of DUI. The length of the suspension depends on whether you also refused to take a breath test or submit a urine sample.  The normal suspension in D.C. for a first DUI offense is 6 months. But if it is found that you refused to submit to a chemical test, the suspension will be for one year.

     

    If you are licensed in a state other than Washington, D.C., you have 15 days to request a hearing at the D.C. DMV. If you fail to do so, or if you are eventually convicted of DUI, the D.C. DMV can only suspend your privilege to drive in the District, not your driver’s license. However, most states will also suspend your license once your conviction is reported to them by D.C. Although occasionally drivers slip through the cracks, you can generally count on your license eventually being suspended if you are convicted of a Washington, D.C. DUI.

     

    Perhaps the most pernicious hidden cost of a Washington D.C. DUI conviction is your time. Those convicted of a D.C. will, in almost every case, be placed on supervised probation. Conditions of probation will include attending a Victim Impact Panel, completing an on-line Traffic Safety Program, and a series of Traffic Alcohol Program classes. In addition, your probation officer may determine that you need additional alcohol and/or drug counseling. All of this takes time away from your job, your family, or whatever else you'd rather be doing.

     

    Suffering a Washington, D.C. DUI conviction has significant consequences beyond potential jail time. Because the stakes are so high, your DUI attorney should make sure you understand the implications of taking a plea deal or going to trial.

  • Is This Thing On? The "Just Joking" Solicitation of Prostitution Defense

    Generally, when you tell a joke that no one gets, the worst that usually happens is you have to explain the joke. Embarrassing? Maybe.  But when you joke around with an undercover Washington, D.C. police officer posing as a prostitute, the consequences of being unfunny can be more severe. In the case of one defendant, it meant being arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution. 

    As a Washington, D.C. solicitation of prostitution lawyer, I meet with a lot of clients who have been caught up in D.C. prostitution stings.  Until recently, I thought that I had heard every defense. However, a recent defendant offered an explanation I haven’t heard before: He was just joking.  Was this a new defense for me? Yes. But was it a legally sound defense? Absolutely. And the government was not amused.

  • Sticker Shock: The Cost of a Washington, D.C. Criminal Defense Lawyer

    You may have noticed that finding how much a criminal defense lawyer costs is one of the few things that’s very difficult to find on-line. And you aren’t necessarily going to get the answer by reading this blog. Even as I write this, I’m not sure that writing about the cost of a D.C. criminal defense lawyer is a good idea. It’s a subject few lawyers feel comfortable talking about with clients unless those clients are sitting across from us in our offices. And to be honest, it’s my least favorite part of a consultation. Watching a potential client’s eyes widen in disbelief when I tell them how much their DUI or Solicitation of prostitution defense will cost them gives me no pleasure. Quoting the cost of a serious felony or a Federal criminal defense is even less pleasant. Because the truth is, D.C. criminal defense is expensive, and nobody likes to pay for it.

    No matter how serious the criminal charge, one of the first questions a potential client asks me on the phone is, “what is your fee.” And that makes sense, because 1) you probably have never hired a lawyer before, and have absolutely no idea how much one costs; and 2) you want to know how much this is going to hurt. The truth is, no one expects to be arrested. No one has a rainy day fund set aside for the possibility of getting an assault charge from a bar fight, a DUI on your way home from an Arlington bar, or a panic-caused hit and run. Most Americans have no savings and very little room left on their credit cards. So of course they’re worried about the cost.

    But providing a quote for a Washington, D.C. or Arlington DUI, or a Virginia Grand larceny case is almost impossible to do over the phone. That’s because the facts of every criminal case are different, and the facts determine how much work your defense lawyer will have to do. And the amount of work your lawyer has to do determines the cost of a quality criminal defense. Think of it this way: if you got in a car accident, and wanted to know how much it’s going to cost you to get your car fixed, you can’t just call up your local auto body shop and get a quote. You’ve got to bring the car in and let them have a look. Does it need new parts? How many and which ones? Is there damage to the frame or undercarriage? Every car accident is different, just like every case is different. To give you a quote, I’m going to need to look at the car first.

    That being said, it’s not impossible to give you a price range on many cases. I know that I will likely charge between $1500 and $2000 for a Solicitation of prostitution defense. Because a DUI in Washington, D.C. is a lot of work, I will likely quote you between $2500 and $4000. But throw in a second charge of hit and run, (D.C. calls it Leaving after Colliding), and it might be as much as $5000. Defending a Civil Protection Order (this is not criminal, but read why it might as well be) will cost probably costs between $1500 and $3000.

    Most lawyers can estimate the costs of a misdemeanor defense, because these cases tend to be more predictable. But if you have a Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia felony, the nature of these cases make guessing difficult and a little reckless. Felony jury trials are time and labor intensive and you can expect to pay upwards of $10,000 or more. Sometimes much more.

    I suppose the conventional wisdom advises against having written this blog. But if having an idea of what it will cost to hire me to defend your D.C. area criminal charge reduces your sticker shock, I think it’s probably worth it. I’m a fan of full disclosure, especially if it saves us both some time.

    Now I know that most clients’ first question is what their defense will cost them. But the question they don’t usually ask, even though they’re probably thinking it, is “what do I get for my money.” When you buy a car, you get to drive it home. When you buy a new phone, you get to stare at it while you walk down the sidewalk bumping into people. But what you get in a criminal defense is slightly more intangible. Your attorney will never promise you a result. Even if it was ethically permissible to tell you that your money would buy a not-guilty verdict or a dismissal, any lawyer who made that promise would be lying more than half the time. What you get is the best result that lawyer is capable of getting you. What you get are honest opinions about what your likely outcome is. What you get is someone to guide you through the dauntingly complicated criminal justice system, and some hand-holding if you need it. And hopefully, you get a lawyer you can trust.

  • Taking the Gloves Off: Good Things Can Happen When You Go To Trial

    While serious felonies get all the press—think armed robbery, rape, murder—a criminal defense lawyer in Washington, D.C. spends the bulk of his time defending misdemeanors. These include assault, domestic or otherwise, driving under the influence (DUI), hit and run, solicitation of prostitution, petty theft, drug possession cases, and the like.  For many defendants, this is their first contact with the criminal justice system. That’s good, because first time offenders, if convicted, are very often sentenced to probation.

    But for many defendants, jail time isn’t their only, or even primary concern. A criminal conviction can result in termination of employment and can make finding a new job difficult. Many Washington, D.C. employees have security clearances, and a criminal conviction may cause that clearance to be revoked. And finally, there is a psychological component to having a criminal conviction that many people have trouble dealing with.

  • The Devil is in the Details: Deferred Sentencing Agreements in Washington, D.C. Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Cases

    In general, plea offers made in Washington, D.C. DUI cases aren’t worth the paper they‘re printed on. They essentially consist of inviting the DUI defendant to plead guilty to DUI. For a first offense without an elevated blood alcohol content or the presence of illegal drugs, the prosecutor almost always indicates that they will be seeking probation. That’s great, since no one wants to go to jail, but in reality it’s very unlikely that a D.C. judge is going to impose jail time on a run-of-the mill first offense DUI, anyway. Therefore, a plea offer that has the DUI defendant pleading guilty to DUI and the government asking for probation, isn’t really much of a plea offer at all. It offers virtually no incentive for a defendant to plead guilty early in the case, and almost every serious DUI lawyer will urge his client to reject the plea and schedule the case for trial.

    Occasionally, however, the facts of a particular D.C. DUI case are such that a plea agreement is worth seeking and/or considering. For a first time offender, the most desirable disposition may be what is called a Deferred Sentencing Agreement (DSA). Offered only in certain cases, a DSA allows a DUI defendant to avoid a DUI conviction if he or she accomplishes the tasks outlined in the agreement. Usually this includes the completion of community service, a Victim Impact Panel, an Alcohol Safety Program, and a contribution to the Victim of Violent Crimes Fund.  If the DUI defendant successfully completes everything, the case is dismissed.

    There are several important things to know about a DSA in Washington, D.C.  First, it requires a defendant to enter a plea of guilty to DUI. After the plea is accepted by the court, the case is continued for sentencing for one year. It is during this year that the DUI defendant will complete the requirements of the agreement. If successful, when the defendant returns to court after the year elapses, he is permitted to withdraw his guilty plea, and the government dismisses the DUI case. If the defendant fails to complete the tasks, or is rearrested within the year period, then he or she will be sentenced on the DUI, and will have a conviction.

    DSA’s are only offered in a small percentage of cases, and often your Washington, D.C. DUI lawyer has to convince the prosecutor that your case merits such an offer. Since D.C. prosecutors are generally overburdened and therefore not always good communicators, this sometimes means multiple emails and phone calls are required from your DUI lawyer. In addition, a DSA is almost never available to defendants who refused the breath test or who blew over a .10. Finally, in almost no cases are defendants with previous DUI convictions eligible for this agreement.

    Even if a DSA is offered to a Washington D.C. DUI defendant, you and your lawyer need to decide if this agreement is right for you. Although a defendant who successfully completes the agreement does not have a DUI conviction on her record, there still may be consequences. Depending on your occupation, the entry of a guilty plea (even if it is eventually withdrawn), may cause problems with your employer. In addition, if you are licensed to drive in the District of Columbia, the guilty plea may or may not trigger a driver’s license suspension. The D.C. DMV is inconsistent about when they do or do not issue a suspension, but I tell all of my DSA recipients to be aware of the possibility.  Finally, failure to complete a DSA essentially means that you have plead guilty and been sentenced on a DUI. So defendants should think long and hard about whether they will be diligent enough to reap the benefit of the agreement.

    Like with any plea agreement, whether to enter into a DSA requires an in-depth understanding of the facts of your case and the possible consequences of your decision.

  • The Wide Variety of D.C. Assault Crimes

    Did you hear about the peanut who walked into a bar?  He was assaulted.

    In all seriousness, Washington, D.C. assault charges are no laughing matter. Being charged with an assault can have serious legal implications.  Being convicted of assault may land you in jail. Under D.C. law, there are at least 10 ways you can be convicted of assault. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say.

  • Unlawful Entry: It Might Not Mean What You Think It Means

    One of the first things that a new client charged with Unlawful Entry in Washington, D.C. often says to me is: I didn’t enter unlawfully, I was a paying customer! While that may be true, there is a lot more to the charge of Unlawful Entry that most people think. Washington, D.C. does not have a crime called “Trespassing.” Instead, crimes involving a person being on someone else’s property without permission are charged under the Unlawful Entry statute

    One of the most common ways to incur this charge, is to be in a place of business, and fail to leave when asked. And nine out of ten times that place is a bar or a club, and the person charged has, in the estimation of the management, been over-served. 

  • Washington, D.C. Sexual Abuse Crimes

    Some of the most serious charges I see as a Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer, involve sexual misconduct. In the District of Columbia, there are four degrees of sexual abuse.

    First Degree Sexual Abuse (“1st DSA”) is the most serious offense charged.  This offense is usually charged for acts of forcible and violent rapes.  To be convicted of 1st DSA, the government must prove that (1) the defendant caused the victim to engage in a sexual act, by (2) using force against the victim; or by (3) threatening to kill, harm, or kidnap the victim; or by (4) rendering the victim unconscious; or by (5) drugging the victim.  An individual convicted under 1st DSA can face up to 30 years in jail.

  • What to Expect When You're Expecting a D.C. Criminal Charge

    When you left the house this morning, surely you didn’t expect to be arrested for a crime.  Sirens, lights, handcuffs—the entire process was undoubtedly one of the most stressful events in your life.  You breathe a sigh of relief because at least you were released on citation, but now you’re facing misdemeanor criminal charges in the District of Columbia.  Now what?

    While anything short of making the entire situation disappear won’t make you feel better, knowing what to expect about the legal process ahead of you might relieve some of the stress you’re experiencing.  In Washington, D.C., offenses such as DUI, simple assault, solicitation of prostitution, and hit and run are all charged as misdemeanors, which means they carry a maximum sentence of less than one-year in jail.  Having a criminal conviction on your record, however, will have a lasting effect on your life.  This is why one of the first things you should do if ever charged with a DC crime is contact a criminal defense attorney.