Month: August 2017

There are a number of reasons to ask the District of the Columbia for a Civil Protection Order (CPO); commonly known as a restraining or stay away order. A CPO is a court order that can last up to one year in which your abuser must stay away from you, not contact you, and stop abusing or threatening you.A CPO can be filed up to two years after the abuse has occurred, but in it is often in your best interest to file as soon as possible. The order is enforced in every state, district, and territory of the United States regardless of where it was ordered. Being in a current or former abusive relationship or fearing for your safety from a second party are just a few reasons for the need for a CPO. The entire CPO process can be done on one’s own, however this is not advised. This process can be difficult and hard to navigate. Depending on your circumstances, it might be essential for your safety to ensure this order is granted. Because of this, using the knowledge and experience of a DC CPO attorney might be in your best self interest.

Civil Protection Orders are filed at the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. When going to file your initial complaint, you are given an extensive form to write your plea and describe in detail the events which have lead you to file the order. Having an experienced attorney could be necessary in this step of the process because the actions you are describing must constitute a crime. Someone saying something mean does not constitute a crime, however someone threatening your life does. An attorney can aid you in ensuring the incidents were in fact crimes. Furthermore, you must have a reasonable fear of danger from the second party, who is also called the respondent in these proceedings.

Once the form has been submitted, the form will be evaluated to ensure the complaints meet the preliminary standard for the matter to advance totrial. Once this has been accomplished, a court date will be set within two weeks.

In the mean time, you may ask for a Temporary Protection Order (TPO) which will last until the CPO trial date. You will appear before a magistrate judge and will have to read the allegations you made against the respondent before the Court. The judge will then decide if the allegations constitute a need for such an order. In almost every circumstance, these orders are grantedbecause the respondent will not be able to challenge the allegations in this particular hearing. If the TPO is granted, it will last until your evidentiary trial in two weeks.

When your trial date comes, you will appear before a judge to present the necessary evidence for the order to be granted. The respondent will also be present at this trial date and will be able to challenge your complaints. You have the right to call witnesses on your behalf and cross examine any witness the respondent calls. You are also required by law to testify at this point in the proceeding. The respondent will have the right to cross examine you and the allegations they are facing. If you do not have a lawyer, all of this will be your responsibility to have the necessary legal skills throughout the trial. This is another reason why having an attorney to aid in preparation and at trial is vital. It is important the best evidence, witnesses, and cross examination is executed before the Court for the best possible chance at getting the CPO granted.

Another reason a CPO attorney might be necessary is often the respondent, whether they have grounds to do so or not, will attempt to file a retaliatory CPO against you. In the worst possible scenario, the CPO against you could be granted and yours could be denied. An experienced attorney will help assist in making sure this does not occur.

Once all the evidence and testimony has been completed at trial, the judge will issue a ruling on the status of the CPO. The judge will either grant or deny your motion. Having an experienced DC CPO attorney working on your behalf will help ensure the order is granted. Often times, people ask for these orders because their safety or their lives depend on it. Having the legal counsel of an attorney can help you get the best possible outcome for you and ensure your safety and well being.

If the order is granted and the respondent violates it, you do have recourse. It is essential to document the incident, save any evidence, get statements from any witnesses,contact authorities, and if you were physically assaulted to immediately go to the hospital. You should also contact your CPO lawyer. Your attorney will be able to get you legal recourse, which can include jail time for your abuser. It is important any violations are well documented and reported to authorities for your safety and an experienced DC CPO attorney can be an essential part of maintaining that. Contact the experienced attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel for a free confidential evaluation of your case.

In 2015, Washington D.C. joined four states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Under D.C. law, two ounces of marijuana is legal for personal use without the intent to sell. With the rise of marijuana use in the district and its new legality, the issue of driving under the influence of marijuana has become an important issue for all drivers.

The legality of personal use of marijuana does not change the criminality of driving under the influence of a substance. Like alcohol, consuming too much of any controlled substance can impair your ability to drive. In marijuana, THC is the active ingredient and can impair your ability to drive safely.

In the instance that you are pulled over because an officer suspects you are driving under the influence of marijuana they will undertake standard DUI proceedings. This includes Standard Field Sobriety Tests such as the walk and turn and the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). The walk and turn test involves walking nine steps heel to toe, turning around, and walking nine steps back as the officer tells you instructions. The HGN test tests for involuntary movements in your eyes referred medically as nystagmus, which increase when impaired. The officer will hold a flashlight or pen and ask you to follow it with your eyes as they check for clues for various forms of nystagmus or involuntary jerking.  Both of these tests and others of the Standard Field Sobriety Test are designed to look for clues of impairment. In most cases, regardless of how well you did, an officer can still arrest you for a DUI.

While the procedures for a DUI for marijuana is the same as a DUI for alcohol, the effects of these substances are different. Field Sobriety Tests were designed to test for unlawful alcohol consumption and might not test accurately for an impairing level of THC. Furthermore, while blood and urine tests can accurately test your blood alcohol content, the same is not true for marijuana. THC can stay in your system for days after the initial marijuana usage. This means that blood or urine tests will test positive for THC even if the last time marijuana was consumed was days prior.

In the D.C. criminal code, there is no detailed language of how much THC must be in your system to constitute a DUI. There is also no case law or precedent in the matter. The consequences for a marijuana DUI are the same as a DUI based on alcohol impairment.  For a first DUI, the maximum jail sentence is 180 days and/or a fine of $1,000. For two or more DUI charges, the maximum fine is $5,000 and/or one year in jail. There is also a 10-day minimum jail sentence if charged with two or more DUIs. The mandatory jail time and fine can go up with each subsequent DUI thereafter.

If the matter goes to trial, a prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of marijuana you consumed impaired your driving. This does not mean they have to prove you were driving dangerously or caused some sort of accident. Any noticeable impairment due to marijuana consumption can cause a conviction for a DUI. This is why it is essential to use an experienced and talented DUI Attorney in D.C.

The attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel have defended countless clients in DUI proceedings. Our attorneys have training in Standardized Field Sobriety testing and are certified to administer the same test the officers will perform on individuals that are impaired. We are prepared to attack the investigation and an officer’s knowledge on recognizing clues of impairment. It is essential for you, or your loved ones, to use a D.C. DUI Attorney to navigate this challenging experience and aid in getting the best possible outcome.

The District of Columbia realizes that mistakes happen. According to the law, an assault must be done intentionally for it to constitute an assault. The Code of the District of Columbia states and an incident constitutes an assault if the defendant, “unlawfully assaults, or threatens another in a menacing manner, and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes [the incident]”.Regardless of the type of assault, there must be an intention to commit a crime for it to actually be assault. The D.C. Criminal Code recognizes a defense of accident or mistake to assault charges if the incident lacks knowledge or intention. In the case of an accident or a mistake, the law acknowledges these actions had no intention, and therefore this can be invoked as a defense in your case.

In the case of invoking a defense of accident or mistake, you are admitting to the assault but claim it happened in circumstances in which you had no intentions. Consider a simple scenario: It’s raining and you’re using an umbrella. You turn around and accidentally strike somebody with the umbrella. In this instance, you could use a defense of accident at trial, which would entail you admitting you struck the person with the umbrella, but that you had no intention of hitting them, and it was purely an accident. At trial, your attorney must present evidence to the court that convinces them the event was an accident or a mistake. In the previous scenario, your attorney could present evidence to the court that it was raining the day of the incident and why you had to turn around. When invoking an accident or mistake defense, it is the defendant’s burden to prove there was a lack of intent.

A defense of mistake is invoked very rarely in the District of Columbia. Typically, there are two types of mistake defenses: mistake of law or mistake of fact. However, in the District of Columbia, courts have consistently ruled that not knowing the law is not a defense. Because of this, mistake of fact is the sole mistake defense available to defendants in the District. A mistake of fact defense must prove there were circumstances unknown to the defendant that prevented them from knowing they were breaking the law. Like a defense of accident, this defense is used to defend an assault if there was no intent and it is the burden of the defense to prove this. Your attorney must provide the Court with evidence which proves a mistake of fact occurred. However, this can often be hard to prove, which is why a mistake of fact defense can sometimes not be the best defense for your circumstances.

If you are charged with committing a crime you committed due to an accident or a mistake it is imperative you contact a skilled and experienced DC assault attorney to aid in your defense. The maximum jail sentence for a simple assault charge is 180 days and/or $1000 fine, or if the incident resulted in significant bodily injury up to three years. With the possibility of such severe sentences, contact the DC assault attorneys at Bruckheim & Patel to help you receive the best possible outcome.

Students at American University in Washington D.C. found bananas hung from trees and lamp posts covered in racially offensive messages targeting African American students. The bananas were hung using string nooses. The incident occurred the first day of finals week in May of 2017, which also happened to be the day the first female African American student president was due to take office. Surveillance footage shows a lone white male walking around the campus in the early hours of the morning. The university, Washington Metropolitan Police, and the FBI have all identified this man as the suspect. They also said they were investigating the incident as a hate crime, making it the second suspected hate crime in two years to occur on the university’s campus.

Unfortunately, the incidents at American University mirror a greater national trend. The FBI reported a 6% rise in hate crimes in 2015, the latest data available. Just as disturbing, in Washington D.C., hate crimes rose an astonishing 62% in 2016; from 66 in 2015 to 107 in 2016, even though overall crime has decreased by 9% in the past two years.

The Bias Related Crime Act of 1989 defines a hate crime in the District of Columbia as any crime, whether committed or attempted, “that demonstrates an accused’s prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation.” The act further describes bias or hate as a motive for a crime, meaning that a hate crime is not a crime itself but acts as an enhancement to a crime. This is further reflected in that the courts can enhance the maximum fine or jail time up to 1 ½ times the maximum amount for any charge when charged with a hate crime.

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has reports that 69 hate crimes are already under investigation in 2017 from January to the end of June. If this trend continues, 2017 will see another vast increase in hate crimes investigated in the District. Between 2015 and 2016, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, and gender identity bias hate crimes had the largest increases. MPD also reported that 12 of the 18 religion biased crimes reported in 2016 were committed against people of the Jewish faith. The same year, the famous China Town/ Gallery Place crosswalk, which is decorated in images of the Chinese Zodiac, was defaced twice in religious based hated crimes. The first was an anti-Semitic instance in which the word “Jews” was written in the Chinese Zodiac rats and swastikas were also drawn. A suspect has since been arrested. A second incident targeted Muslims, in which suspects wrote racial slurs in the Chinese Zodiac pigs. From January to June in 2017, national origin, race, religion, and political afflation bias hate crimes were up for the same period in 2016.

Both Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Acting Chief of Police Peter Newsham have said the rise in hate crimes in Washington could be attributed to both the increased anxiety of the presidential election as well as an increase in crime reporting. The last presidential election cycle, 2011 and 2012, also had an increase in reported hate crimes. Furthermore, the MPD reported Northwest Washington accounted for 69% of all reported hate crimes in the district, which they attributed to citizens being more inclined to talk to authorities.

Mayor Bowser has also said she was increasing efforts to reach out to the transgender community after two disturbing and national media grabbing hate crimes occurred around the Fourth of July.

A group of four suspects were accused of assault and attempted robbery of a transgender woman. They have also accused of five additional robberies, two of which targeted transgender women resulting in the death of one of the victims. The four suspects have been charged with Robbery Conspiracy and First Degree Felony Murder While Armed in the death of the transgender woman. Officials say the murder is being investigated as a hate crime. If found guilty, the maximum jail time for the felony murder charge will increase from 60 years to 90 years due to the hate crime enhancement.

In another incident on July 5th, a transgender woman was hit by a car in what investigators are calling a gender identity bias hate crime. The woman was crossing the street after leaving a club when the suspect ran her down with his car and drove away. An 18-year-old suspect has been arrested for the hit and run. He has been charged with Aggravated Assault While Armed. Prosecutors argue the suspect used his car as a weapon justifying the charge “while armed”. The woman is in critical yet stable condition according to authorities.

After these incidents Mayor Muriel Bowser held a press conference to denounce these actions and reaffirmed her support of at-risk communities. She said she was working with multiple institutions to try to reduce hate based crimes in the District and to increase support for targeted groups, such as the transgender and Jewish communities. Six transgender people have been killed in Washington since 2002. Mayor Bowser stated, “[Washington D.C. is] a place of tolerance and respect, a place where every resident has a pathway to opportunity. We are a Washington that values respect, inclusivity, and diversity.” Unfortunately, taking into consideration current crime trends, it seems not everyone agrees.

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