Author: Michael Bruckheim

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About Michael Bruckheim

As a former Prosecutor, Michael Bruckheim has experience on the other side of the aisle. Prior to founding his law office in 2010, Mr. Bruckheim enjoyed a diverse career in litigation at the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia (OAG) serving for over 11 years. He began his OAG career as a prosecutor in the Criminal Section where he conducted numerous bench and jury trials in traffic and criminal misdemeanor matters. Mr. Bruckheim was promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Section at the OAG where he supervised the prosecution of DUI offenses in the District and directed a staff of over 20 attorneys.

    When we speak of a DUI, it is typically assumed that the vehicle involved is a car or truck. Believe it or not, in the District of Columbia, it is possible to be charged with DUI while riding a bicycle. An actual bike. With pedals.

    In 2010, the D.C. Court of Appeals faced this issue in Everton v. District of Columbia. The Court had to decide whether a bicycle constitutes a “vehicle” under the D.C.’s DUI statute. The Court found that a bicycle is covered under the District’s definition of a “vehicle,” which at the time was “any appliance moved over a highway on wheels or traction treads, including street cars, draft animals, and beasts of burden.” D.C. Code §§ 50–2201.02(9).

    In August, 2012, the DC Council passed the Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (“The Act”). The Act contained the same definition of a “vehicle.” But the act also defined a “motor vehicle” as “all vehicles propelled by internal combustion engines, electricity, or steam.” The distinction of a “vehicle” and a “motor vehicle” is very important for citizens who are charged with DUI-bicycle.

    The Act, like most DUI laws in the country, contains what is called an “Implied Consent” (IC) component of the law. The IC component states that if a police officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a person was operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol, then that person shall be deemed to have consented to submitting two specimens of blood, breath or urine for chemical testing. If the person refuses to submit the specimens, then there are potential negative effects of the refusal such as a suspension of driving privileges in the District and the use of that refusal against the person at trial.

    According to the Act, the IC component only pertains to motor vehicles. It does not apply to “vehicles,” such as bicycles. This means that a person arrested for DUI-bicycle is NOT required in any way to submit to chemical testing. It also means that the person’s refusal to submit to any chemical testing cannot be used against the person in any negative way.

    If the government chooses to prosecute a DUI-bicycle…or any other vehicle defined by the Act…the evidence is limited to the officer’s observations of the defendant while riding the bike, any statements by the defendant, and the defendant’s performance on field sobriety tests. The Act does not permit chemical testing for a DUI-vehicle. Those citizens charged with these types of offenses should take these cases to trial every time because of the limited evidence available to the government.

    The Everton case was an unfortunate example of judicial overreach where a unique set of facts resulted in a bad legal precedent. The severe penalties and consequences of the Act are based partly on the risks of driving a 4,000 pound machine propelled by explosive chemical reactions at potentially high speeds while allegedly under the influence.

    Although the risks of driving a bike while under the influence should not be understated, they do not approach the seriousness of the danger created by an out-of-control automobile. Also, this ruling may have problematic unintended consequences: if people are discouraged from bike-riding after a couple of drinks, they are more likely to choose a more convenient, but far more dangerous option—driving a car.

    By the way, it should be noted that driving a mule cart around DC while drunk is prohibited by the Act’s definition of “vehicle” as well. Watch out, civil war re-enactors.

    If you have been charged with a drunk-driving offense in D.C. for the first time, do not make a bad situation worse by blindly pleading guilty. This advice applies even if pleading guilty seems like the honorable decision. You might reason that

    You might reason that usually, when you make a poor decision, you own up to it, take responsibility, and change your behavior. This impulse might be reinforced when well-intentioned friends and family urge you to plead guilty and hope for mercy. After all, you won’t have to face the stress and uncertainty of a trial, and you can hold out hope that maybe the judge will go easy on you if you’re sincerely repentant and promise to change.

    The problem with this approach is that ignores the reality of DUI prosecutions in the District of Columbia. Specifically, if you plead guilty, you aren’t really throwing yourself on the mercy of the court—the terms of the plea bargain will be set by the Office of the Attorney General. The OAG does not give any credit for a guilty plea. If you plead guilty, you will face probation, mandatory alcohol counseling, and community service. If you don’t plead guilty but are convicted anyway, you will still face probation, mandatory alcohol counseling, and community service. Not a great deal.
    It is especially problematic to enter a guilty plea when you have no way of evaluating the state’s case against you. If you don’t know:

    -whether the police had a constitutional basis to detain you in the first place, -whether they administered the roadside field sobriety tests properly,
    -whether they recorded the results of the field tests,
    -whether they actually took the time to record their observations of your behavior and appearance
    -whether they properly obtained your consent for chemical testing,
    -whether they administered the chemical tests in compliance with Constitutional precedent and D.C. law
    -whether any evidence proffered by the prosecution can be excluded
    -whether any testimony offered by the police can be undermined
    -whether there are any witnesses to establish your side of the story then it would be extremely ill-advised to make a decision before speaking to an experienced DUI attorney.

    It’s true that there may be situations where the case against you is strong enough that accepting a guilty plea is the right decision. But you won’t know that unless an experienced DUI attorney has evaluated the facts of your case.

    Finally, you should reject any suggestion that that there’s something dishonorable about asserting your right to a fair trial. When you assert your right to be free from unreasonable searches, and to have a fair trial, you are participating in a process that the Framers protected in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, specifically to safeguard against government overreach. There is nothing wrong in making the government prove the charges it has brought against you.

    If you are a designated driver, you have one job: stay sober for the night and get everybody home safe. Unfortunately, new research from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol suggests that many of us have redefined the job description to “be less drunk than the rest of your friends.”

    During a three month period, researchers at the University of Florida tested the blood alcohol levels of more than a thousand people leaving bars in Gainesville on Saturday nights after Gators games. They found that 41% of the people who identified themselves as designated drivers had been drinking, and that 18% had BAC levels of 0.05 grams or more. The authors of the study went on to conclude that there needs to be a “consensus across researcher, layperson, and communication campaigns that a designated driver must be someone who has abstained from drinking entirely.”

    The conclusion has some merit. Even if you plan to have just one beer at the beginning of the night, once you order that first round, it takes some will power to say no to a second—especially when your friends are getting tipsy. And alcohol causes people to underestimate the degree to which their cognitive and motor functions have been impaired. By abstaining, you can avoid the risk of driving when you might be more impaired than you realize.

    More importantly, you will be less likely to give a police officer to stop you if you abstain from drinking entirely. An officer can always arrest you even if the evidence is slim because you only had one beer. But that slight odor of alcohol on your breath might be all the officer needs to arrest you and put you into the system. If you find yourself in need of a DUI defense attorney, do not hesitate to call the best.

    Sure, you won’t have as much fun for a night. But at least you’ll avoid the hangover, your friends will owe you one, and you will eliminate the risk of a DUI/DWI prosecution.

    Related links:

    From the Washington Post: Go Home Designated Drivers You’re Drunk

    From NPR: Designated Drives of Fail to Abstain from Drinking

    Most people, on some level or another, would be terrified to face criminal charges. Whether you’re facing charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, or you’ve been arrested and charged for murder, finding yourself involved in criminal court proceedings is a frightening prospect. Many people are unaware that certain interactions with the police, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can result in criminal charges, either misdemeanors or even felonies. Regardless of the eventual verdict, there’s no denying that criminal charges can be incredibly disruptive to your life and your future opportunities.

    Unfortunately, many people will find themselves facing criminal charges at some point in their lives, even in the Washington DC area. Between criminal charges, possible jail time and finding the right criminal defense attorney to represent you, a court case is incredibly disruptive to one’s lifestyle and future prospects. Many employers will terminate employees who are facing criminal charges; an actual conviction will most certainly change the trajectory of your life and future. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers recommends that every person facing criminal charges contact a criminal defense attorney immediately upon learning that they will be being charged with a crime. The consequences for failing to do so can be severe.

    Any person facing criminal charges must retain adequate legal counsel. Inadequately experienced criminal defense attorneys are often incapable of arguing a sound case. As a result, defendants struck with inexperienced criminal defense attorneys are more likely to face time in prison – or even the death penalty. If you are facing criminal charges, you should do the appropriate research and contact an experienced attorney like Michael Bruckheim.

    An experienced criminal defense attorney like Michael Bruckheim will be able to calmly and confidently walk you through each and every step of your criminal court proceedings. From ensuring that you’re released from jail on bond during your trial, to guiding you through each day in court, an experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to best serve you throughout criminal court proceedings. Furthermore, experienced criminal defense attorneys like Michael Bruckheim will know how to best argue your case to acquittal. At the very least, an experienced criminal defense attorney will help you determine when it is appropriate to settle your case through a plea.

    If you are facing criminal charges in the Washington DC area, do not panic. As soon as you possibly can, do the research necessary to find an adequately experienced criminal defense attorney like Michael Bruckheim. If you have the right criminal defense attorney, you will be able to confidently manage your criminal court proceedings. Do not risk your life and future opportunities if you are facing criminal charges. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney.

    Generally, the Law Office of Michael Bruckheim (LOMB) advises drivers detained on suspicion of driving while intoxicated NOT to submit to breathalyzer, blood, or urine tests. By submitting to chemical tests, you subject yourself to the risk of mandatory jail time, and you give prosecutors more evidence to use against you at trial.

    If this is your first DUI offense, the risks of refusing the chemical tests are less severe: your D.C. driver’s license (or your privilege to drive in D.C.) may be revoked for 12 months. But this revocation is not necessarily final, and the LOMB can help you maintain your driving privileges. Specifically, the LOMB could contest your license revocation and suspension by showing that the law enforcement officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe you were intoxicated while driving, or that the officer did not properly inform you of the consequences of your refusal to submit to chemical tests.

    In other words, if you refuse chemical tests, the government will have to work harder to prove its case against you, and you can still fight your license revocation.

    If you do submit to chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine, you should be aware of a hidden danger contained in the District of Columbia’s new DUI statute. Specifically, although only two “specimens for chemical testing” may be collected from you and submitted as evidence, a single specimen may consist of multiple breaths into a breath test instrument. In other words, a police officer may ask you to repeatedly blow into a breathalyzer machine until he or she is satisfied that your breath test is “valid.” The other two types of specimens are urine samples, and blood samples (so long as the blood is drawn by a medical professional acting at the request of a law enforcement officer).

    In other words, after your arrest, don’t think you can fool the breathalyzer by breathing in a certain way—the officer can require you to keep blowing until he or she is satisfied with the breathalyzer result. Alternately, the officer may elect to skip the breath test, and have your urine and blood samples taken instead.

    But if you didn’t know all this, and provided blood, urine, or breath evidence anyway, all is not lost. The LOMB is proud of its experience in challenging the results of chemical tests. To discuss the process of challenging improper or faulty chemical evidence in court, call Michael Bruckheim at 240-753-8222.

    (This is part 3 of The Deep Dark Secrets of the District of Columbia’s New DUI Law)

    One of the more subtle yet damaging changes that came with The Act is the statutory prohibition against serving mandatory jail time on weekends. Previously, if a driver was convicted under The Act and had to serve mandatory jail time, the Court could and often would allow the driver to serve the time over consecutive weekends. This provided a huge benefit to the driver. First and foremost, it typically would allow the driver to maintain his or her job during the work week. And second, the DC Jail incarcerates “weekenders” in a facility apart from the general population of the DC Jail. While the driver is still incarcerated, boredom has been the worst complaint from weekend sentences.

    The Act’s elimination of weekends was surprising and unfortunate. Surprising in that it would seek to eliminate weekend options for the increased mandatory minimum jail sentences, and unfortunate because it failed to take into account that drivers serving these sentences faced severe financial or occupational consequences from their jobs as well as the security concerns that come from incarceration in the general jail population.

    OAG and the DC Council’s reasoning behind this change remain unclear to this day. All the change has done is increase the likelihood that drivers facing mandatory minimum jail sentences will opt for trials instead of pleas due to the nature of the statute. The fact that OAG almost never offers a plea that would waive mandatory minimums also has increased the number of trials.

    The Act’s stance on banning weekends comes from its definition of mandatory jail time. The Act defines such mandatory time as “a term of incarceration which shall be imposed and cannot be suspended by the court. The person shall not be released or granted probation, or granted suspension of sentence prior to serving the mandatory-minimum sentence.” Essentially, a driver must serve the jail time before any type of probation or release. As if to further drive the stake into weekend possibilities, The Act states that each mandatory minimum period of incarceration must be served consecutively. Thus, if a driver has a prior offense which calls for a minimum of 10 days plus a breath score of .20 or higher, the consecutive mandatory minimum days jump to 25 days.

    The lack of weekend sentences clearly has the potential to wreck severe havoc with a driver’s life. But what can be done about it? Based upon the wording of the statute, the best thing a driver can do is prepare to serve the time in advance of the trial date. Another option is to continue the sentencing date following a conviction to allow the driver more time to get his or her affairs in order. Most judges are accommodating due to this circumstance.

    In fact, some judges might be willing to be even more accommodating. The statute speaks nothing to the continuance of the actual sentencing. It is only upon the imposition of the sentence that a driver must serve the mandatory time. What if an accommodating judge is willing to sign an order allowing the driver to report to jail for consecutive weekends prior to sentencing? Judges may incarcerate convicted offenders prior to sentencing. This is typically referred to as “step back.” (as in, the court marshal will step the offender back into custody upon order of the Court).

    What if the judge orders step back prior to sentencing but allows the step back to be served on consecutive weekends? Once the sentencing date arrives, the judge can then sentence the driver to time served and place the driver on probation.

    This solution might be the best way to avoid the somewhat draconian requirements of consecutive mandatory jail time in DUI matters. No other misdemeanor in DC has such punitive requirements for sentencing. Perhaps there are some judges out there who might agree. It is certainly an argument worth making if a driver is facing a mandatory jail disposition.

    April 18, 2013 – (This is part 2 of The Deep Dark Secrets of the District of Columbia’s New DUI Law)

    For some years prior to the passage of The Act, the District of Columbia has imposed mandatory jail time for defendants who have prior DUI convictions. Depending on the number of prior convictions, and on whether a chemical score was over a certain amount, a defendant could face mandatory jail time ranging from several days to several months.

    When The Act was passed, it increased the mandatory minimum jail time for defendants have who a prior DUI offense (2nd offenders) to 10 days. Defendants who have two prior offenses (a 3rd offender) must serve a minimum of 15 days upon conviction. And Defendants who have three prior offenses must serve 15 days plus 30 days for each subsequent offense (a 4th offender would serve 45 days- 15 days plus the extra 30. A 5thoffender would serve 15 + 30 + 30 =75 days).

    When we look at how a “prior offense” is defined under The Act, we find yet another hidden danger. The Act defines a prior offense as “any guilty plea or verdict, including a finding of guilty in the case of a juvenile, for an offense under District law or a disposition in another jurisdiction for a substantially similar offense which occurred prior to the current offense regardless of when the arrest occurred.”

    The key wording in this definition is a “disposition in another jurisdiction for a substantially similar offense.” The Act specifically changed the meaning of a prior offense in order to target defendants who received probation before judgment dispositions in Maryland. Probation before judgment…or PBJ as it is known…derives from a Maryland law which allows a court to stay the entering of judgment, defer further proceedings, and place a defendant on probation subject to reasonable conditions. See Md. Crim. Proc. Code Ann. § 6-220(b)(1) (2012).

    The benefit of the PBJ occurs when the court discharges the defendant from probation upon fulfillment of the conditions of probation. This discharge from probation is final, and under the law, discharge of a defendant from probation shall be without judgment of conviction and is not a conviction for the purpose of any disqualification or disability imposed by law because of conviction of a crime.

    A PBJ allows a defendant to enter a guilty plea, but then have the guilty finding struck by the Court. The defendant is placed on probation. If probation is successful, the case never becomes a conviction. More importantly, a PBJ cannot be used as a conviction to impose a disqualification or disability for anyone who might otherwise be disqualified because of a conviction. Simply put, a PBJ is not a conviction and is not to be considered as a conviction.

    Yet under The Act, a PBJ has been used as the basis to seek mandatory minimum jail time for prior offenders because of how The Act defines a “prior offense.” The government argues that because The Act defines a prior offense as a substantially similar disposition, then that is enough to invoke the mandatory incarceration for offenders with a prior PBJ.

    Clearly this is problematic for DC DUI offenders who have a prior PBJ disposition for a DUI in Maryland. Challenges have already been made to the definition in the statute, and one such argument states that the District cannot pass a law that defines a prior offense differently than the home state which has already defined it. If Maryland has already defined a PBJ as a disposition that: 1) is not a conviction, 2) does not carry a finding a guilt, and 3) cannot be used as to disqualify or disable anyone who otherwise would be due to a conviction, then DC cannot define it differently for the purposes of imposing mandatory jail time.

    The results of these challenges remain to be seen. For now, it is important to remember that if you have a prior PBJ for a DUI, do not think you are safe from mandatory jail time if you are arrested for a subsequent DUI in DC. If you have been arrested for a DUI offense, you can always contact Bruckheim & Patel.

    District Of Columbia’s New DUI Law

    When the DC Council passed the Comprehensive Impaired Driving and Alcohol Testing Program Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 on August 1, 2012, much of the publicity focused on the increases of mandatory minimum jail time for drivers with high chemical scores and/or prior convictions.  With a high chemical score or a prior offense, a driver now faces a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail if convicted…and that time increases depending on how high the score is or the number of previous DUI convictions by the driver.

    Clearly these higher penalties should cause any DC driver to think twice about getting behind the wheel if the driver has previously consumed alcohol or drugs.  But what remains largely unknown to the public are the “hidden” dangers of this statute…several changes pushed by the Office of the Attorney General that provide even greater threats to a driver’s freedom.  Over the course of the next several weeks, the Brucklaw DUI Blog will discuss these hidden dangers in the statute and how a driver can prepare to deal with them if faced with a DUI charge.

    March 25, 2013:  Part 1:  Presumed Guilty

    In Title 1, Section (g)(b), the new law states that if a driver refuses to submit to chemical testing, and the driver has a prior conviction for a prior DUI offense, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or a drug or any combination of the two.

    So what does this mean exactly?  Let’s say a driver has a prior DUI conviction.  The driver is then arrested for DUI in DC.  The driver (wisely) refuses to submit to chemical testing, which means no breath, blood or urine sample is provided.  The new law states that if the driver takes the case to trial, the driver is presumed guilty.  Think of how ridiculous that sounds.  One of the most oft-quoted principles of our system of jurisprudence is that individuals charged with crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  This new law has decided to abandon that concept.

    The phrase “rebuttable presumption” means that the driver enters the trial already presumed to be under the influence by the Court (or jury).  It is up to the DRIVER to rebut that presumption by presenting evidence.  And this tramples on yet another well-known principle of our judicial system:  a defendant has the right to present a defense, to present NO defense, to testify in the driver’s defense or to NOT testify at all.  If the defendant chooses not to present evidence or testify, that decision cannot be used against the defendant.  Unfortunately, this new law basically forces a defendant to put on a case to defeat the presumption of guilt.  It’s just plain wrong.

    Brucklaw has always advocated that drivers arrested for DUI in the District of Columbia should always refuse chemical testing for two main reasons.  First, the driver keeps evidence out of the hands of the government (a DUI case is always stronger with chemical test results).  And second, a driver avoids the possible mandatory jail time if the chemical sample is high (a .20 or higher for breath or blood and a .25 or higher for urine).

    Despite the new law, a driver should still refuse chemical testing…even if the driver has a prior conviction.  There are many challenges that can and will be made to this new law.  The first challenge is that a criminal statute cannot presume guilt.  It violates a defendant’s Due Process rights by presuming the defendant’s guilt prior to trial.  And it violates a defendant’s Due Process rights by shifting the burden of proof to the defendant, which is unconstitutional.

    The second challenge is the fact that drivers are not advised prior to chemical testing that a refusal to submit to chemical testing will result in this “presumption of guilt” if the driver has a prior conviction.  Drivers are therefore making decisions about whether to refuse or submit without having all the information at their disposal.

    The District Of Columbia’s new DUI  Law is very tough on drivers.  However, the “presumed guilty” aspect should not stop drivers from refusing to submit to chemical testing.  There are many challenges to be made to this statute and a driver should not give the prosecution more evidence in the form of a chemical test score under any circumstances.  Drivers who face such a decision can always contact Michael Bruckheim at 240-753-8222 or through the Brucklaw website at www.brucklaw.com.

    There is no need to search the yellow pages for an experienced Maryland DUI attorney with a proven success rate. Instead all you need to do is contact Michael Bruckheim of Bruck Law who is well known in this area of the law representing clients in DWI/DUI cases for several years.

    Why Bruck Law?

    So you may ask yourself what makes Michael Bruckheim of Bruck law stand out and above all the other Maryland DUI attorneys available? Well Mr. Bruckheim is unique in that he can offer you perspective as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in DWI/DUI cases.

    Mr. Bruckheim prosecuted DWI/DUI cases for a number of years in the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. From there he was asked to supervise the Criminal Section in charge of the DWI/DUI prosecutions. This means he has an inside look at how a prosecution puts together their case, the angles they use and the way the court will look at the case. This can only work in your favor, as the more information your attorney has to work with and help you with the more likely you are to have a successful outcome.

    Mr. Bruckheim has even been trained and certified to administer field sobriety tests, which in turn gives him the knowledge on how to challenge field test results. He does not back down from a fight or battle and is happy to bring to the table experience and knowledge while representing you.

    If you’ve been charged with a DWI/DUI you can call Mr. Bruckheim and take advantage of a free consultation to discuss your case and options moving forward.

    What does a DWI/DUI Charge in Maryland Mean?

    It’s important to understand just how serious a DUI or DWI charge is in the state of Maryland. You can be looking at fines, the loss of driving privileges and possible jail time. These types of cases are very technical and they require a very experienced attorney to find the prosecutions weak points in the case.

    By definition a DUI (driving under the influence) charge means you were driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher. First offences carry a $1,000 fine and a maximum of one year in jail, a second offence carries two years in jail and a $2,000 fine while a third offence is up to three years in jail and a $3,000 fine.

    While searching for a Montgomery County DUI lawyer there are a number of things you should be keeping in mind, including a proven track record of winning cases. This is what Michael Bruckheim of Bruck Law offers his clients.

    Finding a DUI Lawyer Who Will Work For You

    If you are currently faces DUI charges then you know exactly how important it is to have an attorney fight for you, one that know what they are doing and how to win your case. Michael Bruckheim has been prosecuting DWI/DUI cases for many years now and is well known in this area of the law. In fact, he has been so successful that he was asked to supervise the Criminal Section in charge of DWI/DUI prosecutions. He is also NHTSA certified to give field sobriety tests.

    What Bruckheim is able to bring clients is that unique perspective that he has gained from prosecuting DWI/DUI cases, which many attorneys won’t be able to provide. This gives him a real understanding of how the law works from both sides of the fence.

    Mr. Bruckheim excels at being able to persuade both the court and the prosecution to give a favorable ruling. He is well aware of how to challenge field sobriety tests and how to best put together and present your case.

    How Can I Challenge a DUI Charge?

    While you might be left wondering how you can possibly challenge a DUI charge, this need not be a worry when you’ve selected an experienced Montgomery Country DUI lawyer – which Mr. Bruckheim is.

    He not only has the experience you’ll need but he is able to be aggressive when it comes to your representation. He can challenge the charge by asking such pivotal questions as:

    – Do you have any witnesses that may be able to contradict the officer’s version of the events?
    – Argue the fact that field sobriety tests are known for being unreliable.
    – Was the breathalyzer or blood test results accurate and were they performed by a qualified person?
    – Was the initial stop legal, meaning was there reasonable suspicion to stop you?

    Mr. Bruckheim takes the worry, stress and pressure off you and instead he does the fighting for you. While you are not likely an expert in the field, Mr. Bruckheim clearly is, which will ultimately benefit you when it comes to the ruling.

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