Author: Attorney at Bruckheim & Patel

Protests have spread across the country in response to ongoing police brutality against the Black community, led by the Black Lives Black Lives Matter, DCMatter movement. 

George Floyd, 46, was killed on May 26, just last week, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of officer Derek Chauvin. The video footage of Mr. Floyd’s death displayed Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Mr. Floyd for almost 9 minutes, while Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe. Charges have been filed against Chauvin, including third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

However, the death of George Floyd is not the singular reason for these protests, but the spark that ignited the flame of the movement. 

On February 23, earlier this year, Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was fatally shot by two men in Brunswick, Georgia, on his afternoon jog. They claimed to have believed he was a suspect for a series of local break-ins, which lacked any sufficient probable cause. Later, a video of the incident surfaced online and drew public outrage. 

Breonna Taylor, 26, was killed by Louisville PD on March 13. Officers entered her home past midnight with a “no-knock” warrant where she was met with at least 8 gunshot wounds. The FBI is currently investigating the incident, and officers have not been charged as of yet. 

Tony McDade, a black transgender man, was shot and killed on May 27, 2020, by officers in Tallahassee, Florida. 

The list is long and continues to grow. 

Peaceful Protest DCSome are protesting not only because of the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement but because of the socioeconomic inequality and disparities cultivated by the American government and the criminal justice system. A system capable of change but continuing to protect the oppressors over the oppressed. 

The protests began about a week ago, immediately after the death of George Floyd. The majority of protests have turned violent due to the fact that they were met with tear gas, rubber bullets, batons, concussion grenades, and helicopters by police and law enforcement agencies. 

President Trump has made it clear that he intends to respond to protests with a heavy military presence despite the First Amendment rights. Peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square Park, Washington, DC, were attacked by law enforcement to clear the area, so President Trump could take a picture holding a bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. St. John’s had caught fire the previous nights amidst protests. The Bishop for the Church, the Right Rev. Mariann Mudde, condemned Trump for using the Church and teargassing peaceful protesters for a photo op. 

With an increase in militarized policing, there have been many arrests made of those protesting. If arrested, here are important guidelines to abide by:

● Call a lawyer ASAP. 

● Invoke your right to remain silent. 

● Make sure friends take down the names and contact information of potential witnesses around you. 

● Write a number and name down on hand in case you are arrested, they will take your phone away.

Those who support the cause but are unable to protest have turned to signing petitionscalling government officials

and donating if they are able to.

Contact Bruckheim & Patel if someone is arrested in the process of a peaceful protest exercising their first amendment rights. Stay safe, DC, and protects your rights! 

Gun laws in American continue to serve as one of the most hotly contested issues. Some on one side of the debate believe that all guns need to be criminalized, unless for security forces. In contrast, on the flip side, others believe they have a Constitutional right to own weapons and any regulation on that right would present an infringement. 

As a result, different legislators have passed or failed a multitude of measures. This has made navigating the various gun laws in the country difficult since they change across jurisdictions. Where then do the gun laws for Washington D.C. stand? What requirements are there for carrying concealed weapons or restrictions on ammunition? How do they differ from their neighbors? 

Washington D.C. – Gun Rules and Regulations

In Washington, D.C., surrounded by government buildings and federal officials, it comes as no surprise that there are relatively stringent regulations on the types, styles, and manners in which firearms are held in position. 

Residents of the District are allowed to possess a handgun for self-defense purposes within their home and places of employment. It must be properly registered with the municipality. Carrying a concealed weapon is allowed in Washington, D.C., but only if the application process is filed and approved pursuant to D.C. Code 7-2509.02. 

Concealed Carry in DCGiven the number of law enforcement personnel in the jurisdiction, there are a varied of exemptions from the registration requirements, including any member of the military or government authorized to carry a weapon while on duty. Anyone who temporarily holds a firearm registered to another, while in the home of the registrant, is also exempt from penalty under the law. 

The requirements for registration include a long list of personal background information to get a sense of the individual requesting permission to own a weapon. Outside of name, place of birth, employment, type of firearm, etc., there are more extensive components including descriptions of any case in which the applicant may have been involved in where a firearm was present, where the firearm is going to be kept, and even, “other information as the Chief determines is necessary to carry out the provision’s of the District’s gun registration requirements.” 

An online firearm safety training course is part of the registration process. It is also required to bring the firearm in for inspection prior to being registered. The registration process, once all documentation has been attained, will be approved or denied within 60 days of submission. 

Additional rules include a 10-day waiting period between the purchasing and acquisition of the firearm, regulation on high-capacity magazines, bans on assault weapons and machine guns, and limits on the number of handguns one can register (only one (1) over a 30-day period). 

It should also be noted that open carry is illegal, as is the possession of ammunition, not for a registered firearm. This means that to have specific ammunition, it must be for the valid firearm registered to that individual. There previously were regulations on specific types of ammunition, even if for a firearm properly registered to that individual. However, these have been relaxed over the past few years, outside of 50BMG, given that these remain completely prohibited in Washington, or any armor-penetrating ammunition. 

Maryland and Virginia – Gun Rules and Regulations

Despite sharing borders, there are some key differences people should know when it comes to carrying weapons across these boundaries. 

Maryland is the most similar to Washington D.C., receiving an A- from the Gifford Law Center to Prevention of Gun Violence. Virginia received a D grade. It should be noted that Maryland allows some local regulation of weapons, which means that even with the state, there may be regulations that apply in one town or county but do not apply in another. Despite having similar rules, including types of weapons, wait periods for both purchases, and between individual firearm registrations, not everything carries over between Maryland and Washington D.C.  

As such, those who may be licensed to carry or possess a weapon in Maryland may not be legally covered when doing so in Washington, D.C. It is important to make sure that in the case of using a firearm in Washington D.C. that is registered in Maryland, any required documentation is filed. 

Virginia and Washington D.C. gun laws differ quite substantially. There is no background check required for the transfer of a firearm between unlicensed individuals, no bans on high caliber rifles or high-capacity magazines, no wait periods before the purchasing of a firearm, or even a requirement to report a stolen firearm. 

Concealed carry must be done with a license. As a result of this, bringing in a firearm from Virginia into Washington D.C. could violate a variety of different district laws – as such, it is important to make sure any and all documentation, licenses, and laws are followed to prevent problems. 

Arrested on a Gun Charge?

If you have been arrested or charged with a gun offense, like Carrying a Pistol Without a License, in D.C. or Maryland, contact Bruckheim & Patel to have one of our criminal defense lawyers take a look at your case and provide a free consultation. 

As of Monday, April 13, the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (“DOC”) Coronavirus, Department of Corrections, Washington confirmed that more than 40 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, and the D.C. jail had its first death from the virus. Diseases like the Coronavirus spread like wildfire in an environment like the jail where there are close living quarters, and visitors and staff enter the facilities every day.

When proper sanitary precautions are not taken, and there is insufficient testing, the real number of inmates that could be infected is unknown and likely much higher than the number of known cases. As a result, the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC) and the Public Defender Service (PDS) for the District of Columbia have sued the DOC for its severe negligence in implementing public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 inside the D.C. jail.

 

The Lawsuit Allegations Against DOC Leadership

The ACLU-DC and PDS class-action lawsuit alleges that the D.C. government has not taken proper action in fighting the Coronavirus pandemic within the jail facilities. It claims that the government has been purposefully indifferent towards prisoners’ health and, therefore, the public’s health as visitors and staff enter and exit the jail every day without proper screening, equipment, or social distancing.Coronavirus department of corrections, Washington D.C.

Furthermore, the DOC has failed to implement and follow the safety measures outlined in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for correctional facilities. Some of these measures include keeping inmates and employees six feet apart in cells and communal areas, ensuring a sufficient stock of hygiene supplies, implementing disinfecting practices, and more.

Visiting attorneys from PDS report a lack of visitor and staff screening procedures, therefore failing to prevent the virus from entering the DOC facilities in the first place. Inmates and corrections officers of the DOC facilities report a lack of sanitation supplies such as soap and hand sanitizer, as well as a lack of equipment such as gloves and masks. They also report a failure to disinfect common areas in the jail, an inability to test corrections officers, and inadequate testing of inmates.

While the DOC does not follow guidelines, it puts the prisoners’ health at risk, as well as the corrections officers’ health. On March 28, the DOC Labor Committee of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) issued a press release criticizing the DOC’s failure to protect the officers’ health. The FOP claims that the District of Columbia does not have the resources to combat COVID-19 and that the jail’s health and safety are not prioritized.

As the Department of Correction fails to take action regarding proper social distancing and disinfecting practices, while not providing sufficient testing and adequate cleaning and hygiene supplies, the pandemic is spreading quicker and quicker within the facilities.

 

Immediate Release of Prisoners as a Means of Relief

On Tuesday, April 7, a federal judge said she would order an emergency inspection of the safety and sanitation procedures within the D.C. jail while she weighs whether to release more prisoners.

One major step several states have taken to slow the spread of the Coronavirus is downsizing their jail population. Because the rate of infection is accelerated in a jail facility, states such as California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and more have granted some type of early or temporary release for prisoners.

D.C. has released 300 prisoners; however, the ACLU and PDS argue that keeping the jail at minimum capacity is the only way to fight the spread of the pandemic within the facilities. This will allow for suitable social distancing measures to take effect and would significantly decrease the number of visitors coming and going from the jail.

 

Other Repercussions— A Defendant’s Right to Counsel & Right to a Speedy Trial 

Because the DOC does not screen visitors and staff entering the jail facilities, attorneys are choosing not to visit their clients during this time as the jail is a hotspot for spreading diseases. Computers and other devices are also not allowed inside the prison, making virtual meetings between attorneys and clients not an option in DC at this time. The jail has not set up an attorney-client secured conference system that is common in the federal facilities. A defendant’s right to counsel is inhibited by the facility’s lack of screening and precautionary measures.

Furthermore, the D.C. courts are currently closed until mid-May and there is a possibility of extension. This delay is causing a backlog of cases, and with the court system already being slow, it could be months before there is a regular schedule of cases, and a defendant’s case is heard. Thus, because the pandemic shows no signs of slowing down in the United States, and the rate of infection is increasing rapidly within the prison system, a defendant’s right to a speedy trial is obstructed.

Evidently, the jail is the lowest priority when it comes to protecting the District of Columbia’s health and safety. As the pandemic rapidly spreads within the prison, it increases the public’s risk due to the visitors, employees, and corrections officers who enter and exit the facilities every day unscreened and unprotected.

 

If you’ve felt yourself going a little stir-crazy these past few weeks, rest assured you’re not the only one. Adjusting to new routines, handling the stress of familial proximity, and potentially coping with job loss are things many of us face on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these feelings are enhanced for married men and women who no longer want to be together through sickness and health.

Domestic Ramifications of Forced Close Quarters

Since the Coronavirus has forced countless families indoors under stay-at-home orders across the country, divorce lawyers have seen a considerable increase in petitions for divorce. This is in no small part due to the immense stress many are under today, causing pre-existing fracture lines to deepen and, for many, destroy relationships. 

Often in relations, both members of the couple are out working and reunite for evenings and weekends. Now, with non-stop contact, some relationships are being put through the gauntlet. Small annoyances or irritating personality flaws can be magnified to seem much more prominent than perhaps they actually are.

To make matters worse, the children of divorced parents now have another layer of stress as well. In shared custody arrangements, sometimes, seeing both parents isn’t an option anymore. Now some children have to be without physical contact with a parent for potentially months. 

Custody Problems Are Just The Beginning

For a divorced husband or wife who only gets custody on the weekends, this has the potential to be a devastating blow for both parties. However, there are also plenty of parents who neglect children’s wellbeing during this time. While it’s doubtful that any significant number of parents intentionally place their offspring in harm’s way, some parents take the Coronavirus less seriously than others, and may unintentionally bring the disease to their child.

It doesn’t stop there. There has also been an increasing number of calls to the police for domestic abuse. In already deteriorating marriages or relationships, the option to move out on short notice is no longer available for some unfortunate spouses. For those whose safe space is work, trips on the train, or otherwise getting out of the house, escape may be cut off due to distancing regulations. 

On top of their already back-breaking workloads, police officers have the duty of enforcing stay-in-place orders, as well as additional domestic violence calls. While some police departments make jokes on social media, asking criminals to halt criminal activity until the Coronavirus epidemic clears, it would take an act of similar magnitude for the police to catch up with the frenetic pace our country is going.

A Closed Court System Cause Unknown Delays

The long and short of the bad news is that couples seeking a divorce, a spouse seeking legal separation from an abuser, and the single parent seeking to amend a custody agreement is that none of these things are going to happen anytime soon. The courts are still closed, only available for emergencies. For many of these situations, the consequences aren’t life or death. Only months on end of severe emotional distress, fracturing families, and potential for continuous abuse. The Coronavirus pandemic seems to have an inexhaustible list of negative side effects, aside from the actual symptoms.

A light, in the middle of this gloomy situation, is the knowledge that many couples are enjoying a long-awaited reunion. Too often, working folks in happy relationships are apart due to work or travel. Now that many work from home and travel is discouraged, it’s an opportunity for people to spend time with their significant others.

Parents working from home get to be around their children, husbands, and wives can be present for each other for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not all relationships are failing, not all children have to watch their home get torn apart, and not all normalcy is destroyed. There is still good news, and while we should help those in need, it’s healthy to find a silver lining even in the darkest situations.

If you have questions about your options during this trying time, reach out to Bruckheim & Patel to speak with attorney Sweta Patel regarding a consultation about your divorce or family custody issues at 202-930-3464. 

 

 

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. 

HAS UBER AND LYFT DECREASED THE AMOUNT OF DUI/OWIs AROUND THE COUNTRY?

With the boom in popularity of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft over the past decade, there has been a lot of discussion on their impact in society. One of the most pressing issues is whether these services are a method of lessening DUI and OWI cases across the country. 

The apps themselves like to claim that they are having a positive impact on the community when it comes to drunk driving. Instead of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, an individual can now use their smartphone to call a ride to their location. But does the data support this?

FACTORS IMPACTING TEST RESULTS

When conducting a study on the impact ridesharing has on DUI/OWI rates, the research-design is rather complex. There are a multitude of factors that go into one’s decision-making process when going out to drink and how to get home. This can include anything from whether there is a designated driver, to access to public transportation. 

The rates of drunk driving are equally impacted by state laws or time frames used in the research-design, meaning the data is driven by variables outside just those of the individual. To conduct research capable of controlling for all factors, studies require extensive time and careful planning. When considering test results, it’s possible these factors could have skewed the data in one direction or another. 

Correlation vs. Causation

Another key component is the issue of correlation vs. causation. Many of the studies that focus on this issue are correlation-based research designs. This means that while some correlation in these studies has been identified, they are not conclusive enough to claim causation. 

A study might find that in the years following a ridesharing service, the number of fatal accidents involving drunk or impaired driving may have decreased. They do not and cannot necessarily claim that this is without a doubt due to the introduction of this service. 

Finally, as is the case with any research, knowing who conducted the analysis is important to ensure there is no bias in the results or claims. For example, there was a study by MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), which found Uber usage rates were higher during times most commonly associated with drunk driving. It is important to note, however, that this was conducted in partnership with Uber. Although the report’s findings need to be considered, so too does the source.  

STUDIES ON RIDESHARING 

This topic has been getting attention from many academics and advocacy groups over the past few years. Most reports fall in line with that of the aforementioned MADD-Uber report, which shows there tends to be a decrease in the overall alcohol-related incidents when ridesharing is introduced into the community. 

However, this idea was conducted and implemented long before Uber, Lyft, or any other app-based ridesharing entity existed. For example, decades ago, in 1983 in Aspen, Colorado, a program called The Tipsy Taxi was launched to target those who may have otherwise driven drunk. The program, available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, is administered by the County Sheriff’s Office to this day. Nighttime injuries, fatal crashes, and alcohol-related accidents all saw declines of nearly 15% following the implementation of the program. 

However, the program’s website notes that after the extension of the public bus system from 11:30 PM until 2:30 AM, the program saw a steep decline in usage. This was not paired with an increase in alcohol-related incidents, indicating it is possible merely having an alternative to driving was the benefit, rather than the Tipsy Taxi itself.

There is no denying the overall logic of Uber and Lyft’s claims that they help work towards reducing drunk driving – a widely accessible mobile app that allows customers to call a ride from wherever, whenever, to any destination. When Uber was introduced in New York in 2011, many began using the app, and an independent study done by CUNY found that generally speaking, these claims held water. In four boroughs of New York City, where the app was introduced, there was a 25-35% reduction in alcohol-related car accidents since its inception. 

Similar findings were made by an independent Miami Herald investigation, which found that the number of arrests made in 2017 by Miami-Dade County’s two largest police stations was down 65% from four years earlier. The City of Miami Police Department reported a 31% decrease over that same period. 

The University of Pennsylvania evaluated Portland, Oregon, and San Antonio, Texas, as case studies which found that DUI’s dropped 60% after the introduction of Uber and other ridesharing apps in the region. 

However, not every single piece of analysis done on ridesharing has supported this idea. A widely cited research review published in the American Journal of Epidemiology failed to find a substantial correlation between fewer DUI crashes and the availability of ridesharing services. It also found no correlated decrease in the number of deaths related to automobile crashes when involving impaired drivers. This study considered the differences in roll-out periods of Uber and looked at the 100 most populated metropolitan areas in the U.S. No association was found. 

It is hard to deny the general logic that supports the idea of Uber and other ridesharing applications lower the number of drunk drivers on the road. While most studies on this issue support this idea and find some level of association between lower alcohol-related incidents and the introduction of ridesharing, nothing is conclusive. Therefore, this question will continue to demand greater statistical analysis to determine if there is any correlation and causation to these two factors. 

For further legal questions relating to drunk driving, DUI/OWI, or other traffic-related incidents, contact Bruckheim & Patel to have one of our criminal defense lawyers in Maryland or D.C. take a look at your case. 

Over the past few years, online dating applications, such as Tinder and Hinge, have become increasingly popular among teenagers and young adults. These apps allow avenues for meeting potential partners by “swiping right” on people you’re interested in and starting a conversation if there is mutual interest. While many have met their significant others on these apps, for women, there is an increased risk of becoming a victim of assault and burglary.

The DMV area has been hit with dating app violence, and it is rising. Demitrious Harriott was arrested in Silver Spring, Maryland, and charged with raping a woman he met on a dating app. The young lady met Mr. Harriott late at night at his apartment complex, where he pushed her into a stairway and proceeded to sexually assault the victim. 

Earlier in July of 2019, Colin Black was found guilty by a jury of two counts of second-degree sex abuse in Rockville, Maryland. Black met his victims on Tinder and Bumble dating apps. While some of the acts that came out at trial were consensual, the jury ultimately concluded that many acts fell outside that scope. In October, Black was sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

These dating apps don’t require a background check or any proof that you are who you say you are. This opens an easy avenue for predators to target and victimize women who use these dating apps, either posing as themselves or by “catfishing,” creating a fake online persona to lure someone to you. There are several steps you can take to increase your safety when using dating apps.

Exchange selfies

As a subtle way to see if you’re being catfished, you can suggest the two of you exchange selfies. This way, if the person is not who is actually in the photo, they will not be able to send you a selfie, or the picture they send may seem strange due to an unusual background or an unnatural pose.

Look them up online

When you plan to meet-up with someone you met online, look their name up online and check out their social media profiles. Most people have some form of social media profile, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or even LinkedIn. This can help you determine if the person is lying about their looks or any personal details they may have given you.

Meet in public

When you meet someone for the first time that you met on a dating app, you should always meet in a public place that you know well. This increases safety by preventing unwanted interactions, allowing for easier escape, and making sure the person you’re meeting does not know where you live.

Don’t rely on your date for transportation

Being in control of your own transportation allows you to leave whenever you want, especially if you start feeling uncomfortable. Either have extra money for public transportation or download ride-sharing apps ahead of time to make sure you don’t have to rely on your date for a ride. This way, you can avoid getting in the car with someone you don’t trust.

If you were victimized by an individual on a dating app and would like to file a civil lawsuit against the individual, contact Bruckheim & Patel for a free, confidential evaluation of your case. 

This past Fall, the District of Columbia, was placed center stage on one of the most divisive topics – the decriminalization of sex work. D.C. proposed the Reducing Criminalization of Commercial Sex Amendment Act of 2019 to D.C. Council.

The controversial topic is being viewed as an alternative solution for mitigating the negative impacts prostitution has on communities. In Washington D.C. specifically, the rates of sex-related charges have nearly doubled between 2017 and 2018, with a jump from 228 cases to 551 cases, respectively.

Different Models

When it comes to combating prostitution, there are three main schools of thought within the context of modern society. The first is what most of the world, including the overwhelming majority of the United States, operates under, which is complete criminalization. This applies to those providing the service, as well as those who are attempting to purchase the service.

Currently, in Washington D.C., the law states that the first offense results in a $500 fine, 90 days imprisonment, or both. A second offense carries the weight of a $1,000 fine, 180 days imprisonment, or both. If there is a third offense or more, this will result in a $12,500 fine, two years imprisonment, or both. These values and term sentences are relatively on par with the rest of the country when it comes to sex work-related cases.

Another model used is the Nordic Model. Named for its regional origin, this model was first implemented in Sweden before being propagated to many other countries in the European Union. The Nordic Model attempts to take a feminist, victim-centric arc on sex work by decriminalizing the sale of services, but continued criminalization of its purchasing.

The idea is that sex work is a trade that victimizes its participants, by legalizing its sale, sex workers do not have to worry about their work being held against them as they move on in their lives. On the flip side, it disincentivizes the continued facilitation of this trade via the act of soliciting sex workers.

Since being implemented in Sweden, its Interior Ministry has reported a near halving of prostitution. The nation represents the country with the highest cost for prostitution.

The third most common system is complete decriminalization. This model, used in places like New Zealand and Denmark, is an attempt to bring the practice more above ground. It has allowed sex workers to organize for higher pay and benefits such as health insurance. This has legitimized the practice as a true industry and trade within the economy. By decriminalizing, this provides less incentive for trafficking because the trade itself can be conducted above board.

Decriminalization is far from a perfect system. It perpetuates a narrative of sexism within society that not just normalizes but codifies the right men have over women by extending legality towards the purchasing of their bodies simply for gratification.

Additionally, there is no substantial evidence indicating decriminalization lowers the amount of prostitution or lowers the amount of sex trafficking. Instead, its nature simply changes. Now, the law provides cover for brothels to open and bring in women from abroad under the perception they are independent entrepreneurs who come to work willingly.

Washington D.C. Current Situation & Proposed Amendment

Almost identical to an attempt made by Councilmen Grosso in 2017, this most recent bill attempts to tackle the rise in sex-related crimes in D.C. by taking a decriminalization approach to both those selling and purchasing sex work.

Known as the Reducing Criminalization of Commercial Sex Amendment Act of 2019, this second attempt comes with 3 co-authors, raising the profile and legitimacy of this attempt.

The bill comes at a time when the rate of sex-work arrests is rising inside D.C. As a response, the Mayor’s office has attempted to stem the tide through the establishment of the Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. The organization is designed to implement arrest diversion programs for those convicted of sex work.

Metropolitan Police, in conjunction with federal authorities, have also been cracking down on various web services commonly used in soliciting prostitution, including sites like Backpage, and even Craigslist. Some believe these actions are in poor judgment and are making the situation worse for many involved in the trade.

Sex Workers Advocates Coalition, a special-interest group working in the D.C. area, has expressed concerns regarding such an approach. Alicia Gill, a spokeswoman for the group, expressed issue with the underlying nature of the diversion program, as it relies on people being arrested and entered into the criminal justice system with a sex-work related crime on their record. This practice harms both consenting adults engaged in sex work but also penalizes victims of trafficking.

Instead, the group is in support of decriminalization, but they are not in favor of this current bill. The coalition, along with various other groups and individuals, even those who approve of decriminalization, have been disappointed in the lack of services provided to those victimized under the current version of the bill. The bill does not include provisions to automatically expunge the criminal records of those involved in sex work, which is a crucial factor the organization feels needs to be included.

Dissenting Special-Interest Groups

Sex Workers Advocates Coalition is far from the only dissenting special-interest group opposing the bill. Courtney’s House and Rights for Girls, two other highly vocal and relevant organizations, have expressed their opposition to the bill.

Felicia Henry, a spokeswoman for Courtney’s House, noted the bill proposes nothing substantive to provide support for those harmed by the industry, nor does it adequately stem the tide of the growing sex industry in the District.

Yasmin Vafa of Rights for Girls prefers partial decriminalization paired with support programs for trafficking victims as an alternative. In either case, it is clear the Reducing Criminalization of Commercial Sex Amendment Act of 2019, remains highly unfavorable among both the constituents and special-interest groups of Washington, D.C.

Over the past decade, an unconventional method of dating, known as sugaring, has become more and more popular. Sugaring is when a younger woman and an older, wealthy man form a relationship where the man, the sugar daddy, gives the woman, the sugar baby, money and gifts in exchange for the time they spend together.

The phenomenon often draws comparisons to prostitution. Both prostitution and sugaring involve exchanging money for intimate services. While sugaring does not always include sexual acts, it is often part of the arrangement. Those who are involved in sugaring often differentiate between prostitution and sugaring by emphasizing the dating aspect of sugaring. They say that prostitution is flat out exchanging money for sex, and being a sugar baby is more similar to being in a consensual, adult relationship where your partner supports you financially.

Can you be charged with prostitution for engaging in sugaring?

This grey area begs an important question: Can you be charged with prostitution or solicitation for engaging in sugaring? 

Many websites that facilitate the formation of these mutually beneficial relationships ensure to use specific language to skirt legal liability and have strict policies against advertising sex in exchange for money. Despite this, the main investor behind RichMeetBeautiful, a sugar daddy dating site, was convicted of promoting prostitution in Belgium where prostitution is legal, but related activities, such as soliciting and pimping, are illegal.

According to Washington D.C.’s legal code, prostitution is defined as a sexual act or contact with another person in return for giving or receiving anything of value. Under this definition, it would not be difficult to charge someone with prostitution or solicitation due to the broad parameters for what acts are prohibited and what can be exchanged in the relationship to constitute a violation of the law.

In Maryland’s criminal code, prostitution is defined as the performance of a sexual act, sexual contact, or vaginal intercourse for hire. Here, the use of the term “for hire” could insinuate a clear and strict contract between the two parties, which may make it more difficult to successfully prosecute someone for prostitution or solicitation for engaging in a sugaring relationship.

FOSTA and SESTA

Fosta (Fight Online Sex Traffic Act) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) was signed into law by President Trump in 2018. Previously owners of websites were not legally responsible for the actions of their site users. However, under this new law, every site or online platform will be held liable for hosting anything on their website that the law describes as prostitution. 

Sugaring - Prostitution or Dating?

The law will affect how sugar daddy sites operate, but this will not be the end of sugar dating. The sites will need to prove that they are taking significant measures to prevent sex trafficking and prostitution. It’s not just sugar daddy sites, but also other dating sites that will have to implement security to screen for prostitution-related language.

If you’re involved in a sugar relationship and concerned that it could be perceived as solicitation, ensure that the relationship develops naturally and includes aspects other than sexual encounters to emphasize the differences from prostitution.

If you have been charged with solicitation or prostitution based on a misunderstanding of your sugar relationship, contact Bruckheim & Patel to have one of our criminal defense lawyers in Maryland and the District of Columbia provide a free, confidential evaluation of your case.

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