Month: July 2018

Stop. Don’t do it.

With three large universities and seventeen other colleges and institutions, Washington D.C. has a reputation for being a college-town. There are currently about 63,000 students in Washington’s three largest colleges: George Washington University, Georgetown University, and American University. But that’s not all the city has to offer, for D.C. is also home to a vibrant night life with some of the country’s most famous bars and clubs. However, putting these two together leaves the city with a huge underage drinking problem. This problem isn’t unique to the District, but rather is part of a larger public health issue that faces the nation and threatens thousands of lives every year.

Your First Drinking Age Through History

In 1965, the average age people in the US tried their first drink was 17.5. In 2003, that number jumped all the way down to 14. As American’s are exposed to alcohol at a younger and younger age, the problems associated with alcoholism worsen. In fact, teenagers who reportedly start to drink before the age of 15 were four times more likely to report depending on alcohol at some point throughout their lives. But in order to combat early onset alcoholism, you first must understand why teenagers are so susceptible to drinking. Around age 9, children tend to have a negative point of view towards drinking, but around age 13 these beliefs tend to shift and become positive. Furthermore, at this point in their lives teenagers are more likely to take risks and seek thrills, and for some that means drinking. Hereditary factors also play a huge role in the likelihood of underage drinking as well as the environment that they grow up in. Lastly, youthful teenagers tend not to experience hangovers or other negative experiences associated with binge drinking that adults feel, meaning there are less repercussions for doing so.

Why Should You Care?

But why is this an issue? Well there are many reasons Washington residents should be concerned. For one, D.C. has some of the strictest underage drinking laws in the US. Currently it is illegal to possess, consume, purchase, or attempt to purchase alcohol for anyone under the age of 21, with no family or location exceptions that many other states have.

DC statute § 25–1002 is entitled: Purchase, possession or consumption by persons under 21; misrepresentation of age. Violators are subject to fines up to $300 and up to 90 days incarceration for a first violation; a fine of not more than $600 and suspension of driving privileges in the District for 180 days upon a second violation; and upon the third and each subsequent violation a fine of not more than $1,000 and suspension of driving privileges in the District for one year.

The Beginning Of A Host Of Health Issues

Underage drinking also causes a lot of health problems limiting the development of the brain, liver damage, and disrupting the hormonal balance during puberty. Lastly, and most importantly, underage drinking is responsible for the deaths of about 5,000 minors each year. This includes 1,900 from drinking and driving, 1,600 from homicides, and 300 from suicides. By resolving or limiting the issues of underage drinking, we can save thousands of lives every year.

The role of a defense attorney is not simply to argue their client’s innocence, it is also to make sure that they receive a fair trial and due process as guaranteed by the Constitution. Procedure is important, and sometimes a case is not decided on the facts, but the manner in which those facts are presented, such as a Brady violation. The recent trial of alleged Inauguration Day rioters shows this clearly.

What Is A Brady Violation?

Brady violation refers to an infringement of the constitutional principles affirmed in the case Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). This landmark case dealt with John L. Brady, who was tried and convicted for the murder of an acquaintance. Brady claimed that he had not committed the murder himself. He testified that he was involved in a robbery that lead to the killing, but it was his accomplice Charles Boblit who had committed the murder, which Brady never wanted to happen. Brady was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death, but later learned he had not received a fair trial. Prior to the trial, the prosecution acquired a statement from Boblit which confirmed Brady’s story: Brady never intended to kill, only commit robbery, and it was Boblit alone who committed the murder.

Brady appealed the case and eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in a 7-2 vote that the state prosecutors had violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment by not revealing exculpatory evidence to the defense. Writing for the court, Justice William Douglas found “that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution.” The precedent was set and continues to apply today.

In what amounted to a major setback for the United States Attorney’s Office’s case against dozens of Inauguration Day rioters, federal prosecutors dropped charges against eight more defendants allegedly involved in violent demonstrations on January 20, 2017. Six of the defendants were set to be tried on June 25,2018, while the other two were part of separate trial groups set for later in the year.

Disclosing Evidence

The defendants’ motion to dismiss came after federal prosecutors failed to provide potentially exculpatory video evidence to the defense for the May 25, 2018, trial of a different group of protesters. Superior Court Chief Judge Morin deemed this an unconstitutional Brady violation and dismissed the charges of conspiracy against those defendants— one of which was represented by Bruckheim & Patel. Prosecutors argued that they disclosed all evidence to defense counsel. However, it came to light that the prosecutor’s had more evidence than they claimed, which was not disclosed. Judge Morin’s ruling dealt a serious blow to the prosecution’s case, and the second trial ended in acquittals and mistrials for all of the defendants. Those who have been following this case may remember that a jury acquitted all defendants in the first Inauguration riot trial last year.

These setbacks for the prosecution do not signal the end of the case, however, as the government has yet to try dozens of individuals they claim planned or participated in the Inauguration Day Riots. In those upcoming trials, one thing is certain: procedural matters, well, matter. After all, the prosecution’s case in the second trial was hamstrung by a procedural matter—the Brady violation— before a jury was even picked.

And it was that failure to turn over such evidence that has played such a large role in the Inauguration riot case. This highlights the importance of having a defense attorney that knows procedural rules like the back of their hand. Fortunately, for the second trial group in this case, they did, and their constitutional right to a fair trial was protected.

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