Category: Criminal Law

Are accountability and transparency the solution? Or is policing as we know it an outdated approach to public safety?

On Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers arrived at the 200 Block of Orange St SE in response to an Instagram live stream of multiple individuals in a vehicle brandishing firearms.

One of the individuals in the vehicle was 18-year-old Deon Kay, a Black male who ran away from the car when the officers arrived on scene. When Officer Alexander Alvarez saw that Mr. Kay had a gun in his hand, Alvarez immediately shot Mr. Kay in the chest as Kay threw his firearm away from himself into a grass field. Deon Kay was soon transported to the hospital, where he later died as a result of the shooting.

In June earlier this year, the D.C. Council passed an emergency police-reform bill that requires the MPD to release the body-worn camera footage of officers involved in fatal shootings within five days of the event. The bill also requires MPD to make public the names of the officers specifically involved. Within this bill, the victims’ families can choose whether or not the videos should be made public.

Due to this new policy, two videos of the incident have been released. The first version, which lasts a little more than four minutes, begins with a narration, giving details as to where and why the police were responding to the scene. Then, Officer Alvarez’s body-worn camera footage shows the shooting and follows Alvarez as he looks for the firearm thrown by Kay immediately after. The video concludes with a slow-motion playback of the shooting, which more clearly shows Mr. Kay brandishing a firearm before he is shot. The second video released by MPD is unedited and about 11 minutes long. It is the full body-worn camera footage of Officer Alexander Alvarez.

While the emergency police-reform bill promotes accountability and transparency among law enforcement agencies, it by no means solves policing issues in America. The video shows Deon Kay brandishing a firearm before Officer Alvarez fatally shots him. Still, critics ask why Kay had to die instead of attempting to de-escalate the situation.

Amid the strong and ever-growing Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the death of Deon Kay drew public outrage. A BLM organizer, April Goggans responded to the event saying, “This is the systematic way that MPD operates and polices black bodies. They see him; they jump out, they barely stop the car and run after him.”

The American Civil Liberties Union went public to criticize the officer’s quickness to shooting Kay instead of making any attempt to de-escalate the situation before fatally shooting him. The executive director of the ACLU’s District of Columbia branch, Monica Hopkins, said,

“The D.C. police department’s approach to gun recovery has been dangerous and ineffective for years. The tragic shooting and death of 18-year-old Deon Kay is the logical conclusion of a policy that not only meets violence with violence but actually escalates and incites it — especially in our Black communities.”

At-large Councilmember David Grosso went to Twitter to say, “The police killing of #DeonKay is a tragedy, and my heart is with his family and loved ones. The community and public deserve answers and accountability on MPD’s actions in this incident. His death is a failure of our outdated approach to community safety.”

It is time for the MPD to consider a new approach to keeping communities safe instead of making the people of the communities they police feel unsafe. While the emergency police-reform bill is an attempt, it is a mere band-aid that cannot truly heal a broken and outdated system.

In the District of Columbia, when a person petitions the court for a Civil Protection Order it is the petitioner’s burden to prove that an intrafamily offense occurred. An intrafamily offense means the offender needs to have committed or threatened to commit a crime against a person he shares a relationship with by marriage, blood, a child in common, legal custody, shared residence, or a romantic/dating relationship. Because Civil Protection Orders are unique in that they mix both criminal law and civil litigation, there are specific rules that regulate these matters under the Domestic Violence Division at D.C. Superior Court.

Civil Cases with Criminal Implications

Discovery Rights

Unlike a criminal case, automatic discovery rules do not apply when a Civil Protection Order is initiated. Rule 8 of the Domestic Violence Division Rules governs discovery practice. If either party wishes to receive discovery prior to the hearing, the party must motion the court and state whether there is a pending criminal case involving the same facts alleged in the Civil Protection Order case and attach proposed interrogatories, requests for production, or requests for admission. This motion must be filed not later than 7 days after the respondent was served with the petition. Even if a party requests discovery, there is no guarantee the court will grant the request if good cause has not been shown and with regard to the nature of the proceedings.

5th Amendment Protections

In some cases, a criminal case rising out of the same facts may be pending simultaneously with a Civil Protection Order case. If the respondent is a defendant in the criminal case, he may believe he can invoke his 5th Amendment right to protect himself against self-incrimination by not testifying and delaying the civil protection hearing until after the criminal case is complete. However, Rule 12(b)(4) of the Domestic Violence Rules prohibits the respondent’s testimony during a civil protection hearing be used against him and is inadmissible as evidence in a delinquency proceeding or criminal trial. The only exception to the rule is his testimony can be used in a prosecution for perjury or false statement. Since this rule exists, it is unlikely a judge will delay the Civil Protection Order hearing until after a criminal case based on a 5th amendment claim.

Reasonable Doubt v. Preponderance of Evidence Standard

Though the judge in a Civil Protection Order hearing needs to find that the respondent committed or threatened to commit a criminal offense against a petitioner, the level of proof required is much lower than what is necessary in a criminal case. As most people know, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a crime in order for the person to be found guilty. In a Civil Protection Order case, the judge only needs to find that there is good cause to believe the respondent committed the offense. This standard is known as the preponderance of evidence which can be defined as it was “more likely than not” or “more than a 50% chance” that the offense occurred.

Motions to Reconsider and Appeal Rights

If a party disagrees with the court’s findings after a Civil Protection Order hearing, he can motion the court to reconsider its ruling. Rule 7(j) details the following grounds for this motion:

  • The court’s failure to consider a material fact or applicable law;
  • Newly discovered evidence that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered prior to the court’s ruling, order, or judgment;
  • A change of law not previously brought to the court’s attention;
  • The absence of a stated reason for the court’s order;
  • Fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct by the opposing party;
  • Mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; or
  • Any other reason that justifies relief.

A motion to reconsider must be filed no later than 28 days after entry of the order. If a party’s motion to reconsider is denied, he then could file a notice of appeal with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. This notice must be filed within 30 days from the denial of the motion to reconsider. However, a party is not required to file a motion to reconsider with the court prior to filing a notice of appeal. After the Civil Protection Order is issued, a party can appeal this order by filing a notice of appeal within 30 days with the Court of Appeals. It is important to note that filing a motion to reconsider or a notice of appeal does not change or suspend the Civil Protection Order while the motion and appeal are pending.

If you are interested in petitioning for a Civil Protection Order or someone has filed a Civil Protective Order against you, contact Bruckheim & Patel to speak with one of their expert attorneys in domestic violence for a free, confidential consultation.

When most people get pulled over for suspicion of a DUI, they automatically think about whether they had any alcohol or how long it had been since their last drink.  Rarely do people think about their diet and how that could affect a breathalyzer test.

People may need to add this to a list of their concerns.  With society’s ever-increasing pressure to look fit and thin, a lot of people are turning to fad diets to accomplish these goals. However, some diets, like the Keto diet, may negatively impact a breathalyzer test and make it appear like a person is more intoxicated than they are.  

Low carb diets, such as the newly popular Keto diet, involve eating little to no carbohydrates but eating more fatty foods. This way, when your body tries to burn carbs for energy, and there are none to be burned, your body burns fat for energy instead. This may sound like a good idea because it is effective and works fast, but this can cause surprising side effects for breathalyzer tests.

Can Ketosis cause false positive breathalyzer?

Yes, when in ketosis the body creates acetone as a byproduct, which is released through your breath in the form of isopropyl alcohol. A breathalyzer test will be will read the isopropyl as ethanol, which is used to make most alcoholic beverages

Your body likely won’t have enough isopropyl in it to cause a reading of above .08 on a breathalyzer test. However, a problem could arise if you had been drinking prior, even if it’s not enough to put you over the legal limit because the isopropyl would cause a higher reading than your actual blood alcohol content would indicate.

If the officer has sufficient indicators to offer you a field breath test, or if you’re taking the breath test at the police station, you will likely be charged with driving under the influence if your results come back positive. However, a blood alcohol content test would not be subject to the same inaccuracies as a breath test and could prove a positive breath sample as false. 

Even though law enforcement officers may be aware of this possible false positive, rarely do they ask questions to determine if the person is on a Keto diet before administering a breath test. 

It is important if you feel you are not under the influence of alcohol, but on a Keto diet, to request a blood alcohol test rather than a breathalyzer. The officer may not oblige, but at least your request would be noted if the officer is wearing a body camera, like all officers are required to wear in the District of Columbia, and could help you at trial. 

Even though the Keto diet may make you look your best when it comes to possible DUI charges, it may be best to stick with eating the cheeseburger and fries. 

If you have been charged with a DUI and believe the breathalyzer reading produced a false-positive result due to your diet, speak to our DC defense attorneys about your case and see what your options are. Contact Bruckheim and Patel for a free consultation of your case.

Having an understanding of ways citizens can fight back when their rights have been violated by law enforcement officers is crucial. Being aware of police misconduct laws helps citizens know when and how they can make a legal claim of unnecessary use of excessive force against police officers. These claims would be considered civil claims, as opposed to criminal claims, in an effort to pursue justice against an officer if they have mistreated an individual or mishandled a situation using excessive force more than is legally justified.

What determines excessive force in an arrest?

The circumstances of an arrest determine whether or not an individual is able to file for excessive use of force against an officer. When reflecting on the circumstances of the arrest, there are two main things to consider: Did the officer have probable cause to make an arrest for a criminal offense? If they did have probable cause, how did the officer use force to make the arrest?

While officers do have the right to use a reasonable amount of force while making an arrest, anything that might exceed what is considered reasonable could possibly prompt a claim against an officer. Not only does this include any sort of physical harm, but also potentially any mental or emotional harm. These situations might pose an individual the opportunity to file a claim against the District of Columbia.

How to file a federal claim of excessive force

When filing for a claim, there are two main routes to potentially pursue. The first of which is making a federal claim against an officer for the use of excessive force. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unlawful searches and seizures. If the officer violated any constitutional rights. This could be either because the officer lacked probable cause to make the arrest, or that they used more force than they had to in order to make the arrest. On the other hand, the individual may also be able to make some common law claims against the officer including assault and battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, etc. These claims against the officer would be made through the District of Columbia, on behalf of the actions of the officer.

This process has time limits if you intend to file a complaint with the city. First and foremost, you must notify the city within 180 days of the incident if you intend to sue, based on the events that took place during an arrest. In doing so, you can send a letter to the mayor’s office here. This letter should describe the circumstances surrounding your case, the date that it occurred, and any injuries that you suffered. This letter will put the city on notice that you intend to file a lawsuit in the future.

Furthermore, if you intend to make any common law claims, your statute of limitations is one year for claims such as assault and battery, false arrest, or false imprisonment. In other words, an individual has one year to file a complaint in court proceeding from the date the incident occurred.

If you choose to make a federal claim, the constitutional violations against the officer has a statute of limitations of three years, which gives you more time to do so. However, it is a safer bet to make all possible claims when drafting a complaint and when a complaint is filed. Ideally, the complaint should be filed within a year of its occurrence.

The doctrine of “qualified immunity,” was originally created to protect law enforcement officers from tedious lawsuits that might occur as a result of “split-second decisions” they make on the job. This protection has led to a culture of injustice when citizens try to fight back against the system. The issue with the doctrine is that it relies on the idea that there must be a “clearly established” precedent to act as a model for officers to follow. If there is no established precedent of a situation, officers often are able to get away with illegal and harmful conduct. This has led to unnecessary violence, murders of many innocent civilians, and far too many instances of police brutality. There is currently an effort among the Supreme Court to move towards abolishing qualified immunity and how it plays a role in the criminal justice system today.

You can fight back if you have been mistreated by law enforcement, even if they are still currently protected by qualified immunity. It is important to note that if you are charged with criminal misconduct, it is recommended that you seek legal advice from a defense attorney prior to filing a complaint with the city or against the officer. This will ensure that your rights remain protected while charges are pending.

For more information regarding excessive force claims or misconduct against a police officer, contact Bruckheim & Patel for a free confidential evaluation.

Prisons across the country have begun releasing non-violent offenders due to concerns surrounding the risk factors of COVID-19. In an effort to protect overall public safety, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has examined the possible dangers incarcerated individuals might face. Measures such as social distancing, are nearly impossible to enforce in prison systems. This issue paired with the virus’ ability to spread quickly among people poses a life-threatening situation to many.

Reviews Started as Early as March

As early as March this year, the BOP began to review the cases of non-violent offenders, to consider home confinement as an alternative to incarceration. Across the country, thousands of incarcerated persons who have been deemed to be at high risk for COVID-19 have been placed in home confinement and released from prison. As of April 15, the population of jails in Washington, D.C. has decreased 21.8%. Likewise, Maryland government officials have continuously been urging the state to identify incarcerated persons at risk and consider their release from prison.

Health Concern’s Trump High Profile Rulings

One high profile case that has been highlighted in the news media is that of President Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who has recently been released from federal prison. Cohen has been imprisoned in NY for the past year and the concerns for his safety due to COVID has led to this decision. As a result, the completion of his sentence, set to end in November 2021, will take place from the comfort of his own home.

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign Chairman, has also been released to home confinement. Manafort’s  criminal defense attorneys requested his release due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19. Manafort was convicted of charges involving bank and tax fraud and was sentenced to 7.5 years in March 2019. Previously serving his term in PA, Manafort, 71, has various health concerns that compromise his safety such as high blood pressure and respiratory conditions that make him vulnerable to COVID-19. At the time of his release, there were no reported cases of COVID-19 at the prison Manafort occupied, but his attorneys argued that to wait for a reported case would put Manafort in a potentially life-threatening position.

In February this year, Roger Stone had been sentenced to 40 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release. Stone had been found guilty of obstructing investigations related to Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. Stone’s attorney was informed that the date his sentence was set to begin, originally at the end of April, was pushed back 30 days by the BOP. As of April, Stone’s attorneys argued for a new trial due to juror bias which was ultimately dismissed. Stone has publicly spoken out about his frustration with being incarcerated during the pandemic, which could ultimately be life-threatening as Stone is 67 with various health issues.

Unfortunately, the presence of COVID-19 has begun to spread throughout prisons nationally at high rates. There have been at least 29,251 reported cases of COVID-19 among incarcerated persons as of the week of May 20, 2020. Releasing individuals who do not pose a great threat to the public into home confinement is seemingly the right move in order to protect the most lives.

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. 

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. 


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?


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.  


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. 

Call Now Button