Washington DC Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with DUI, or any other misdemeanor or felony criminal offense, you are likely in need of sound legal counsel. Facing the possible ramifications of a criminal conviction can be terrifying. Criminal charges and DUIs can result in staggering legal penalties and a criminal record that can follow you for many years, if not the remainder of your life. Your rights, your freedom, and your future are in jeopardy when you are charged with a criminal offense, therefore in order to protect yourself, you need strong legal defense. Do not leave your fate to chance. Be proactive and immediately seek legal counsel from an experienced Washington, DC criminal defense lawyer.
DC Criminal Defense Attorney
The legal field is vast; lawyers may practice in family law, personal injury law, contract law, corporate law, tort law, or criminal law. Even within these broad fields an attorney may choose a narrower focus in terms of which types of cases to handle within those realms. Just as you would rely on a specialist to treat a serious medical condition, you should rely on an experienced DC criminal defense attorney to handle your legal battle. For the strongest defense, find a criminal lawyer in DC who is proven to be successful in defending cases similar to your own. An experienced attorney can handle your case in stride, anticipating and pre-empting any prosecuting maneuvers that may jeopardize your case, and conducting a thorough investigation into the facts of your case to uncover exonerating evidence or to challenge procedural missteps and illegalities on the part of police, investigators, or prosecutors.
Common Criminal Offenses in DC
Criminal offenses are charged every day in the District of Columbia. Some of the most common offenses include driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, drug and gun possession offenses, assaults, sex crimes, and theft-related offenses such as burglary and robbery. All charges are serious and carry the potential for life-altering complications.
DUI Charges in Washington, DC
There are three different charges for driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. Specifically, the charges are driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI), and operating a vehicle while impaired (OWI). These are listed in order, from the most serious to the most minor. In DC, a DWI may be charged when a person is suspected of operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more or when a driver under the age of 21 is found to be operating a vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol or signs of impairment. A DUI charge applies to a person who is driving a vehicle with a BAC above 0.05 but below 0.08 percent. An OWI charge applies to drivers who show signs of impairment by alcohol, or other substances, even when their BAC measures less than 0.05 percent.
Both DWI and DUI charges have the same penalties, although certain enhanced penalties (i.e., for those caught driving with a very high BAC) only apply to DWI charges. OWI penalties are notably less serious, but still include potential jail time and hefty fines if convicted. If you are facing any of these DUI charges in the District of Columbia, please visit this page here or contact a DC DUI lawyer today.
DC Assault Charges
In Washington, DC the crime of assault is generally defined as the threat of force or the use of force that causes another person to have “reasonable apprehension” of imminent harmful or offensive contact. Assault can be pursued in both civil or criminal court, and it can be charged as misdemeanor or felony, depending on the facts of the matter. See DC Code Sections 22-401 through 22-407.
Simple assault is deemed a misdemeanor offense and can include any attempt to cause harm or unwanted contact with another person. The crime also covers the act of threatening someone if the victim has a reasonable belief of imminent harm or unwanted contact. Penalties for misdemeanor assault charges can range up to 180 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Aggravated assault is a felony offense and generally applies in situations where a person knowingly or purposely causes serious bodily injury to another individual, or intentionally or knowingly does something which creates grave risk of bodily injury to another and, as a result, causes actual serious bodily harm. For the latter half of the charge to be found true, a prosecutor must also show that the alleged perpetrator demonstrated extreme indifference to human life. As a felony offense, a conviction for aggravated assault can result in a fine of no more than $10,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison.
There are many other charges that fall under the general term of assault, including those who commit assault with the intent to commit other crimes, such as murder, robbery, and sexual abuse or child abuse. Assault of an officer is a distinct offense that results in up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine, or both. At the other end of the spectrum is the relatively minor charge of threats to do bodily harm, which can result in a fine up to $500, up to six months in jail, or both.
The term domestic violence applies to a number of different crimes that are classified as domestic violence if they involve what is known as “intrafamily” violence. This can range from assaults, to threats, to kidnapping, to stalking. Some sexual assaults may be classified as domestic violence, and charges of cruelty to children and destruction of property also fall under this one term. Typically, when a man or woman is charged with domestic violence, their case will be heard in the Domestic Violence Division of the DC Superior Court. The judges and prosecutors that work in this division are devoted solely to the handling of domestic violence charges, which is why you will want a high-skilled DC criminal defense lawyer who has experience in defending clients against domestic violation allegations on your side. These charges can include misdemeanor and felony offenses and are often accompanied by “stay away” or protective orders. Intrafamily members include spouses, domestic partners, former spouses, seperated spouses, and individuals who have a romantic, dating, or sexual relationship.
Drug possession charges are also divided into categories of misdemeanor or criminal offense. A recent shift in DC law now classifies minor possession of marijuana (one ounce or less) as a civil offense as opposed to a misdemeanor, criminal offense. That means that if you are found with the drug, you face a $25 fine and the seizure of your pot.
One key difference to keep in mind is that DC is somewhat unique in its approach to drug-related offenses. Rather than calculating penalties on the amount of the drug, the DC Code deals with the presence and circumstances surrounding the controlled substance. See DC Code Section 48-904. Also, controlled substances are defined in Code Section 48.901.02(4) as a drug or substance enumerated in Schedule I through V of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Generally speaking, drugs assigned to the Schedule I category are the most strictly regulated because they pose the greatest risk to the public and have a high potential of abuse. Conversely, Schedule V drugs are the least regulated because of their relatively low potential for abuse, and therefore lower risk. To learn more about the controlled substances by Schedule, click here.
In addition to breaking down the drugs by Schedule, DC law also takes into account whether the drugs are possessed for personal use, or for manufacture, sale, or distribution. If, for example, a person is found guilty of manufacturing, distributing, or selling (or possessing with the intent to sell) a Schedule I, II, or III drug, and if the substance is not a narcotic or abusive drug, they face up to five years in prison, up to a $50,000 fine, or both. If, however, the substance is half a pound or less of marijuana and the person has no prior violations under this provision, they face up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. Those found guilty of the same crimes involving Schedule IV substances face up to three years in prison and/or up to $25,000 in fines. For a Schedule V substance, a person faces up to one year in jail and/or fines up to $10,000.
Enhanced penalties may apply in certain situations, such as those who are found guilty of distributing drugs to a minor, those who enlist minors to distribute control substances, and possession of controlled substances in “drug-free zones.” In DC, those zones include all areas within 1,000 feet of schools, universities, colleges, day care centers, public swimming pools, playgrounds, youth centers, libraries, public housing, or events sponsored by certain federal and DC government agencies. Committing a drug-related offense in a drug-free zone can see your prison time and fines doubled.
DC Gun Charges
Certain DC gun laws are currently in a state of flux, thanks to a recent federal court ruling that found much of the District’s gun restrictions to be unconstitutional. The same court has issued a stay against its order striking down much of the District’s gun law provisions to allow DC law enforcement and government leaders time to respond to the court’s ruling.
This does not mean, however, that DC is now an “open carry” jurisdiction or that authorities are adopting a more relaxed stance on gun-related crimes. Certain provisions, such as committing certain felony crimes while armed (e.g. robbery, assault, or sexual abuse) will continue to see enhanced penalties. See DC Code Section 22-4502. Certain individuals, such as convicted felons and those who are the subject of certain protective orders, will not be allowed to carry weapons. See DC Code Section 22-4503. And the District’s gun-free zones, defined as the same locations as those listed in the drug-free zones provision, will likely remain intact.
Also, it’s important to note that as long as the stay is in place, the existing laws that ban carrying or transporting weapons whether they are concealed or transported openly – unless a person is specifically authorized to do so – may remain in effect.
DC Robbery Charges
Robbery offenses are felony offenses and, as such, carry the possibility of harsh prison terms. In DC, the crime of robbery is defined in Title 22, Subtitle I, Chapter 28 of the District of Columbia Code Section 22-2801, which boils down to anyone can be charged with robbery if the following has occurred:
(a) They used force or violence or placed another person in the position to fear them. In cases where actual acts of violence are alleged it does not matter if the other person fights back or offers resistance.
(b) To take anything of value, be it cash or property, from a person.
Those convicted of robbery face a potential prison term of two to 15 years.
DC Attempted Robbery
If any person attempts any of the above offenses, whether or not they are successful, they may be charged with attempted robbery. See Section 22-2802. The law requires that the attempt be made through “an overt act.” If you are charged with attempted robbery in Washington, DC you face a potential term of up to three years in prison, up to $500 in fines, or both.
Carjacking is a federal offense in the District of Columbia and conviction can result in up to seven to 21 years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Anti-carjacking legislation was was passed by the DC Council in 1993 that focused on harsh penalties in light of several highly publicized incidents. The terms for carjacking offenses are also fairly broad and include any individual who intentionally uses force, fear, stealth, or attempts any of these things to take a person’s vehicle. Again, the victim does not have to resist for a carjacking charge to be levied. It also is irrelevant if the carjacker was successful in instilling fear in the target, as long as the suspect proceeded to take the vehicle. See Section 22-2803(a)(1).
If, however, you are armed with a gun or any number of other weapons at the time of the alleged crime, the fine amount doubles to up to $10,000 and the prison terms includes a mandatory minimum of 15 years with a possible maximum of 40 years. See Section 22-2803(b)(2). Weapons defined in this classification include fake guns, knives, razors, brass knuckles, and other deadly devices.
The crime of theft is broadly defined in the District of Columbia as any number of offenses that include wrongfully taking or obtaining money, or something of value, from another person by means of larceny, trickery, larceny by trust, embezzlement, and false pretenses. See DC Code Section 22-3211(a). A person who is accused of theft may be convicted if the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they:
- Took or took control of property, or;
- Without permission, used or changed an interest in or possession of some piece of property, or;
- Used trickery, deception, or other falsehoods to take the property, and;
- The accused did so with the intent to
- Take away someone’s right or benefit of the property, or;
- Used the property as it if were the accused’s own property, or let a third party use the the property.
See Section 22-3211(b).
Penalties for theft charges can vary greatly, and are based in large part on the value of the item or items that are alleged to have been stolen. It is prosecuted as either second-degree theft (commonly known as petty theft) or first-degree theft. Penalties for petty theft can include a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. If the value of the item or items is greater than $1,000, the charge increases to a felony offense and may result in up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
In addition to incarceration and fines, many people who are convicted of criminal offenses in Washington, DC also face court costs, probation, community service, and loss of their driver’s license or professional license. Drug and alcohol offenses can result in mandatory drug and alcohol monitoring and counseling. Those convicted of sex crimes will likely have to register with the DC sex offender database. In addition to the legal consequences, a conviction can yield a heavy personal toll as well, destroying families and personal relationships and limiting professional and educational opportunities.
Clearing a DC Criminal Record
Long after a prison sentence or probation has been served, many convicted individuals are plagued by the social and professional stigma associated with a criminal record. This record, even of a misdemeanor conviction, shows up in background checks and can hinder one’s ability to find employment, gain admission into the college or university of their choice, and even secure a financial loan. For those have already suffered a conviction and who wish to clean up their record, an attorney may be able to help them seal their record in a process known as expungement.