Month: March 2020

As the Coronavirus pandemic is sweeping our nation, many of us find our daily routines disrupted by the new “social distancing” practices everyone’s being encouraged to uphold. However, there is much more going on besides having to cancel family reunions or business dinners.

The criminal justice system is being severely tested, and in the next few weeks, it will be made clear how the DC and Maryland courts plan to address these burgeoning issues.

What About Prisons and Jails?

One consideration that isn’t given enough airtime on television or social media is what will happen should the incarceration institutions

across the country become infected. Prisons, by their nature, are cramped, crowded, and unsanitary. Seeing how the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, these institutions are hotbeds waiting for infection.

More so now than in previous years, the prison population is aging, and jails and prisons are not prepared to combat a potential outbreak. This is especially true for DC. The DC jail is still bulging from the age of mass incarceration, and many prisoners are still scattered across the US in federal institutions due to overcrowding in the city.

Furthermore, prisons aren’t equipped to be medical treatment facilities, so what steps should they take to ensure Coronavirus doesn’t make its way into their ranks?

What Steps are Being Taken?

Some prisons and jails have begun allowing early release for non-violent offenders and at-risk inmates. In New Jersey, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner allowed the temporary release of up to 1,000 non-violent offenders, in hopes that it would reduce the risk of introducing Coronavirus into the prison population. The released prisoner’s sentences would either be on hold, or they could get credit for time served, up to the discretion of the judge.

Additionally, Iran released over 70,000 prisoners recently to combat the Coronavirus. While the US is certainly no Iran, it goes to show the lengths other countries will take to ensure there isn’t an outbreak in an incarceration institution.

Besides outright release, there are other methods the courts can use to slow the addition of new prisoners and protect the existing prison population. Already, DC has suspended in-person visitation and is working on a digital visitation system. The DC jail has also temporarily cut programming for inmates, meaning more cell time and less socialization. The courthouse is closed, only operating for emergencies. All pending jury trials, status dates, and arraignments are on hold. Pending warrants are also being suspended in Oklahoma, or dropped altogether, like in Maine. These extraordinary measures are being taken solely to reduce the number of individuals in a tight space at any given time.

Temporary CPOs are sometimes issued before hearings Seeing how the courts are on an emergency-only schedule, those CPOs are automatically extended, by court orders, with no hearings.

Suspension of Rights?

The sixth amendment guarantees the right of a defendant to a speedy trial. Today that might not be a reality for many people entering the criminal justice system. The courts are notoriously slow, with some people’s simple DUI cases taking months to complete. Now the backlog is being extended by the delays caused by the Coronavirus. It could be months before a regular flow of cases comes through the courthouse again.

There’s a strong case to be made that this violates the sixth amendment rights of all the defendants out there, waiting three to four months for their cases to be heard, particularly in cases where an individual is held pending a trial. Should this violation be acknowledged, defendants will have their charges dropped.

Between the potential for hundreds of cases to be set aside, and the potential release of hundreds of prisoners of non-violent crimes, this virus might force a new mindset of criminal justice on not only the District of Columbia but all across the country. Corona may be the silver lining for justice reform in the age of mass incarceration.

Further complicating the backlog of cases is the fact that every day, people are being arrested for all sorts of crimes. Crime and the police haven’t stopped, even if the courts have. In an attempt to reduce this ever-growing clog in the courts, some have called for the police across America to issue more citation releases, and arrest fewer people.

Obviously, this isn’t applicable to a large number of offenses, but some action must happen to reduce the number of people entering the justice system, particularly for non-violent offenses.

Massive Ramifications for the Criminal Justice System

These issues impact every court system across the nation. The dangers presented to incarcerated individuals, the massive backlog being generated in the courts, and the stress on every branch of the criminal justice system can be felt from DC to California.

The virus, and the implications it has for our justice system, are still in their early stages. The game will undoubtedly change within the next few weeks, maybe even days.

The most important part to remember is that none of us asked for this. The defendant waiting for their case is just as stressed as the judge facing months of backlogged scheduling, the corrections officer who hopes he doesn’t bring the virus to work every day, and the police officer who patrols our streets. We are all in this together.

Having a conviction on your record can impact aspects of life as a citizen in ways perhaps not initially realized. One of those is the privilege connected to operating a driver’s license in Washington, D.C. Like various states in the union, D.C. works on a point-based system when it comes to determining the effects certain convictions have on someone’s ability to exercise their privilege to drive. Depending on the situation, the impact on one’s license will vary.

How the Point System Works

The structure of the D.C. point system is actually quite straight forward – certain charges are going to incur a certain number of points. Those who accumulate too many points are then at risk of having their driving privileges removed. Your right to drive is at risk of being suspended once you have acquired around 8-9 points, while if you reach 10 points, a suspension of the license is mandatory. These points stay on a driving record for two years. 

Then, points are required to be deleted via the DMV guidelines. In these same DMV guidelines, it also states that the department is required to provide safe driving points. These points are collected by going a calendar year without drawing a single negative point. One year without a negative point is equal to one safe driving point, with a maximum of 5 safe driving points on a record at any given time. 

Unlike punitive points which are removed after two years, safe driving points are taken off one’s record after five years. While ten punitive points accrued requires a license suspension, over 12 points could end in the revoking of a license.

The point-system includes everything from “following another vehicle too closely” (2 points), all the way to “leaving the scene of a collision in which personal injury occurs” (more commonly referred to as a hit and run), which is equal to 12 points. 

If at a hearing you are found liable for some moving violation, the point system determines the number of points assigned to your record. Important note: in D.C., paying a ticket is considered an admission of liability, and therefore will also result in the application of these points to one’s driving record once the ticket is paid but not when the ticket is assessed.

Removal of points can be a relatively painless process depending on the reasoning for the sustained infraction. For example, a simple moving violation and the subsequent points can be removed with the simple completion of an online defensive driving course – the points will be removed entirely from the record. Do note that if you are going to go this route, prior approval from the D.C. DMV’s Hearing Examiner is required.

How Certain cases Impact a License and Reinstatement Process

Perhaps unsurprisingly, DUI, DWI, and OWI’s are more serious cases that have substantial impacts on one’s driving privileges. In D.C., being found liable for any one of these crimes results in the automatic suspension of one’s license. Equally important to note is that entering into a DSA, Deferred Sentencing Agreement could potentially result in limitation, suspension, or even revocation of one’s license. 

A DPA, or Deferred Prosecution Agreement, however, cannot be used to limit, suspend, or revoke one’s license. In D.C., unlike in some states, if you are found liable for any one of the three drinking and driving violations, you are not allowed to request a limited occupational license, which further restricts one’s ability to use a vehicle.

These three instances are not the only types of cases which impact one’s driving privileges.

License Revocation for DUI

In fact, many cases can impact a license in one way or another as a form of collateral. Failing to make child support payments, for example, can result in the suspension or even revocation of a license.

It should be noted that the number of convictions for these types of cases can impact the length of suspension or the possible revocation of a driver’s license. In D.C., the first offense generally results in the suspension of a license for 6 months in addition to the 12 points on the offender’s license. This is in conjunction with a retest to obtain the license once more. 

It only gets worse from there, with 2nd-time offenders having their license revoked for one year, while a third-time offense will result in a license being revoked for 3 years if it occurs within 15 years of the other cases.

If convicted, the reinstatement process is going to look slightly different. A suspension of your license, naturally, means you must wait until the conclusion of that time period. 

There will also be a $98 reinstatement fee when you go to the DMV following the conclusion of your suspension. You will also need to complete a Traffic Alcohol Program. 

In the case where your license was revoked as opposed to suspended, your process will be more involved. You will be required to attend a hearing and complete a certified substance abuse program. Various tests will then be conducted to make sure you are safe for the road again, including a driving knowledge test, attaining a driver’s permit, taking and passing a road test, until finally getting your license. You must also cover any and all fees that are associated with this process.

For further questions relating to how criminal convictions may impact your driving privileges, contact Bruckheim & Patel to have one of our criminal defense lawyers in Maryland or D.C. look at your case. 

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