• 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.

  • DC’s New APO Law Gives Defendants A Fighting Chance

    Until recently, the District of Columbia’s Assault on a Police Officer (APO) statute was broadly applied to include, not only physical assault, but also resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating, or interfering with a police officer.  Raising your voice to an officer, wiggling while being handcuffed, or refusing to move because you believe the police stopped you unlawfully—these have all been reason enough to land you in legal trouble.  Essentially, any behavior other than complete submission and silence could lead to an APO arrest.

    An investigation conducted by WAMU 88.5 and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University revealed that from 2012 to 2014 the District charged APO nearly three times as much as other cities with the same size population.  It also revealed that approximately two-thirds of the people arrested for APO were not charged with another crime.

  • 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.

  • Halloween Night in Washington, DC Ends with Multiple Reports of Robbery

    Georgetown is not one of the areas in which we typically hear about crimes such as robbery and assault; however, according to a recent news article from WJLA Washington, DC, a student was walking home Halloween night when a group as large as 20 teenagers and young adults allegedly approached him.   He was allegedly beaten badly, robbed, and then watched as attackers took his laptop computer from him and smashed it on the sidewalk.  

    A spokesperson for the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), says there were homophobic slurs used during the attack, which is why they are considering this alleged offense to be a possible hate crime.

  • 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.

  • Oops: The Defense of Accident or Mistake in D.C. Assault Cases

    In the District of Columbia, if you are arrested for any type of assault crime, the government must prove that you acted intentionally.  While the government does not have to prove that you intended to injure the alleged victim, it does have to prove that you intended to commit the threatening act. Fortunately, the law recognizes that sometimes accidents happen.

    Under the law in the District of Columbia, one of the defenses available to a client facing assault charges is accident or mistake.  By asserting either of the defenses of accident or mistake, you are admitting that you struck the complaining witness, but that the contact was accidental.

  • Playing Nice: Judge Confirms That D.C. Bouncers Must Keep Their Hands to Themselves

    At 6’ 3” and weighing in at 415 pounds, the bouncer needed every inch of the witness box. To say that he was a big guy doesn’t nearly paint the picture, but I’m a D.C. criminal defense lawyer, not a novelist. So, he was a big guy. But don’t call him a bouncer, because as he pointed out to me during cross-examination, he finds the term “derogatory.” He prefers, “security.” Fair enough.

    In Washington, D.C.,” “bouncer” certainly is a derogatory term, mostly because they have a reputation for getting a little handsy. And by getting handsy, I mean pummeling D.C. club goers who get a little too drunk, rambunctious, or simply in the way. It’s well known and accepted that bouncers, er, club security officers are there to toss unruly patrons out on their ears. It’s what they do. But what gives them the right to do it? In a recent simple assault trial, I argued that nothing gives them the right. And the judge agreed.

    My client was on trial for assaulting the aforementioned 415 lb. bouncer and his bouncer buddy, while he was being “escorted,” from a Washington, D.C. club. My client was arguably drunk, but not unruly, and he hadn’t been fighting. The bouncer testified that my client threw a punch at him, nicking his chin. The security footage supported this accusation, so game over, right? Not so fast. Because the video also showed what the bouncer meant by “escorted.” As my client moved towards the door, the bouncer shoved him, not once, not twice, but three times. He’s a bouncer doing his job, so what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is that each one of those shoves constitutes an assault by the bouncer, on my client.

    Self-defense is probably the most common defense in assault cases. A Washington, D.C. citizen has a right to defend himself against physical attack. The test is whether the attacked person believed that he or she was in imminent danger of bodily harm, and whether that belief was reasonable at the time. The amount of force used to defend oneself must also be reasonable.

    In my D.C. assault case, once the gargantuan bouncer began shoving my much smaller client, my client had the absolute right to physically defend himself. To the law, and to the judge, the fact that the bouncer was hired by his employer to do exactly what he was doing makes no difference. Bouncers have no special authority to put their hands on customers. The law treats them no differently than the clerk at the counter at your local convenience store, or the waiter at your favorite restaurant. Can you imagine either of the those employees attempting to physically remove a customer or diner? Of course not. If they want someone to leave their place of business, then can ask, they can demand, but they can not physically do it themselves. Their remedy is contacting the police. That is the same remedy available to a club bouncer.

    While the judge delivered her not-guilty verdict, she made it very clear that she recognized that the punch thrown by my client was an act of self-defense, in response to the bouncer’s repeated shoving. Given the size of the bouncer, the punch was a perfectly reasonable amount of force. Hopefully the message that bouncers cannot assault customer with impunity was loudly and clearly received. More than likely, it was not.

  • 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.