DC Felony

  • 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.

  • Case Dismissed: Good Things Come to Those Who Work

    If I were charged with a crime, I’d definitely want my case dismissed. That would be a great outcome, and would save me a lot of trouble, maybe some jail time, a criminal record, and several trips to the probation office. So I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised when so many of my clients tell me that they’d like their cases dismissed. Of course they would. It makes sense. But what does surprise me is how easy clients seem to think it should be for me to get their cases dismissed. In their minds, since they didn’t do what they’re charged with, I should be able to explain that to the prosecutor or the judge, and voila, the case disappears. Ah, if only things were that easy, I could spend a lot more time on the golf course. The reality is that, whether you’re charged with a DUI, assault, solicitation, or any other misdemeanor or felony in Washington, D.C., it is very rare that your case simply gets dismissed without your criminal defense lawyer doing a whole lot of work.

  • 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.

  • Fight or Flight? Defense of Others in DC Assault Cases

    In any threatening situation—whether it be a threat against you, a loved one, or a complete stranger—you are faced with the choice to either fight the threat or flee the situation.  Fortunately, District of Columbia law recognizes, not only a right to defend yourself from harm, but also the right to defend others from harm.  Your Washington, D.C. assault lawyer should be very familiar with this right, and prepared to use it as a defense in your D.C. assault case.

  • From Bad to Worse: DC Unemployment Insurance Fraud

    Imagine you have just been laid off from your job.  Your mind races and you think “how am I going to pay my rent, my car payment, and other bills.”  Luckily, you can obtain unemployment benefits within the District of Columbia to keep you afloat while you look for another job.  

    A few days later, you find some temporary work but the job only lasts for a couple of weeks, so you continue to collect unemployment benefits.  A few months later, you find a part-time job but the money you make does not cover your bills, so you continue to collect unemployment benefits.  One-year after you were laid off, you find a new, full-time job, but you still need some unemployment benefits for a little while until you are firmly able to pay all of your bills, so you continue collecting. Finally, the day comes when you have paid off all of your bills and you are secure in your new job. You are back on your feet, and no longer need unemployment benefits.

  • Heat of Passion: When Murder Becomes Manslaughter

    This is part II of my explanation of Washington, D.C. homicide laws and their consequences. As previously noted in part I, a Second Degree Murder (“SDM”) charge can be reduced to Voluntary Manslaughter (“VM”) when certain mitigating circumstances are present.  A Manslaughter conviction is preferable to a SDM conviction because the penalties are less severe.  Of course, you don’t just have to settle for a VM conviction if you are ever facing homicide charges.  An experienced D.C. criminal defense attorney can ensure that you have the strongest defense and that your rights are adequately protected.

    Voluntary Manslaughter is defined as an intentional homicide committed under extenuating circumstances which mitigate, but do not justify or excuse, the killing.  Mitigating circumstances are present in two situations. The first is when the defendant acts in the heat of passion caused by adequate provocation.

  • It's Alive, Alive: D.C. Superior Court Judge Shows that 4th Amendment Still has Teeth

    It’s no secret that if you get pulled over by the police in Washington, D.C., the officer likely has more on his mind than a broken taillight or an illegal turn on red. If police officers observe any traffic infraction, no matter how small, they have the right to pull you over and write you a ticket. And once they have you lawfully pulled over, the police are almost always looking to turn a traffic stop into a full-blown arrest. But despite what many officers might think, making a lawful traffic stop does not give them carte-blanche to investigate matters unrelated to the original purpose of the stop. 

  • 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 Straight Dope: What You Need To Know About Washington, DC Drug Laws

    In the District of Columbia, there are three types of drug offenses: possession, possession with intent to distribute, and distribution. Your Washington, D.C. criminal defense lawyer should be familiar with all three.

    Possession of a controlled substance is charged if a person is accused of simply having drugs.  There are two types of possession under DC Drug laws: actual and constructive.  Actual possession is when a person is caught with drugs on his or her person.  For example, if you are arrested for any reason and during the search incident to arrest a cop finds a bag of cocaine in your pocket, you will likely be charged with possession.

  • 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.

  • 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.