D.C. Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • "We All Go A Little Mad Sometimes:" Murder Defense in D.C.

    For the majority of us, the closest contact we have with murder is watching make-believe victims on television or movies. However, as Norman Bates concisely explained in the movie Psycho, we all have a breaking point, and for an unlucky few, fiction becomes reality.

    In the District of Columbia, the law recognizes two murder offenses: First Degree Murder (“FDM”) and Second Degree Murder (“SDM”).  There are two types of FDM, Premeditated Murder and Felony Murder, and only one type of SDM.

    For Premeditated Murder, the government must prove that the defendant intentionally caused the death of another after a period of premeditation and deliberation.  This means that the government has to prove that a defendant had time to think about killing someone before actually committing the murder. The law does not require that premeditation and deliberation take any particular amount of time.  Forming intent to kill and deliberating about it may be instantaneous, and the government only has to prove the fact of malice aforethought, not the length of time it lasted.  The biggest difference between FDM and SDM is premeditation and deliberation. 

  • 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.

  • Homicide: Enhancements & Aggravating Circumstances

    As previously discussed, DC law recognizes two types of murder offenses: First Degree Murder (FDM) and Second Degree Murder (SDM).  FDM and SDM convictions carry the highest penalties under the law and, under certain circumstances, the penalties can be enhanced to almost double the prison sentence. A Washington, D.C. criminal defense attorney will know how to navigate this tricky sentencing structure.

    If convicted of FDM, you will be sentenced to anywhere from between 30 years to life in prison. However, you have the possibility of early release.  SDM on the other hand, does not require a minimum sentence but you could face up to life in prison with the possibility of early release if convicted.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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. 

  • When a Tie is Really a Win: Hung juries and Mistrials

    The saying goes that when a game ends in a tie it’s like kissing your sister—not very appetizing for most of us without incestuous impulses. But when you’re talking about a jury trial, a “tie” is usually a win for the defendant, and a loss for the government. But let’s back up. All persons charged with a felony or one of a few specific misdemeanors (including DUI Second offense and Assault on a police officer) in Washington, D.C. are entitled to a trial by jury—a trial before 12 members of the community. In a jury trial, the government must convince these 12 people beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed the crime or crimes he is charged with.