The District of Columbia Office of Police Complaints just published new policy recommendations that would have police officers wear on-body cameras. You can find the policy recommendations here. As the Office of Police Complaints recommendations state, there was a study of the effects of the use of these cameras in Rialto, California. This study found that “the devices appeared to cut down on the number of incidents involving the use of force while also reducing the number of complaints filed against officers. Specifically, the Rialto study showed that the devices brought down the rate at which police force was used during interactions with citizens.”
This would seem to be a very positive development. I am curious about the civil-liberties groups that the policy recommendations document refer to that oppose this measure – one would think one of the most important civil liberties to be concerned about is the freedom from being beaten by the police and then being falsely charged with Assaulting a Police Officer (APO).
There are many consequences to a drug conviction, some well-known and others not obvious until you face it. One little-known consequence of a drug conviction in DC is that the DC Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically revoke your driver’s license. DC Code § 50-1403.02 requires the DMV to revoke DC driving privileges for any adult or juvenile conviction (or what they call in the juvenile system “adjudication”) for a drug offense. This is true whether the drug charge had anything to do with driving or whether you even have a driver’s license.* Continue reading
I have written before how in criminal drug prosecutions, the government analyst should be cross-examined and their case file and other information should be requested to prepare a defense case. A colleague sent me a great example of this effort paying off.
D-L Color Test of Three Suspected Marijuana Samples
A chemist at the DEA Mid-Atlantic Laboratory wrote in a report that three samples suspected to be marijuana turned purple in a Duquenois-Levine color test. The problem is that the picture of the test (not included in the report but in the analyst’s case-file) showed only one sample that might conceivably indicate the sample was marijuana (and even that one is weak). Continue reading
Posted in Criminal Law
Tagged DC, District of Columbia, Drug Cases, Evidence, Jury Trials, Maryland, Misdemeanors, Pre-trial, Scientific Evidence, Trial, Trials, Washington
Even though everyone in the DC government, from the DC Council to the prosecutors at the Office of the Attorney General, knows that alcohol in the urine has a “loose correlation” to intoxication, that urinalysis is unreliable, people are still regularly prosecuted and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) base on their urine scores.
Back in June of 2011, DC Chief Toxicologist Lucas Zarwell of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, stated under oath to the DC Council that urine testing cannot reliably determine impairment or blood alcohol levels. In response to a question from council member Phil Mendelson, Mr. Zarwell testified as follows:
MENDELSON. How accurate is urine testing for measuring blood alcohol content?
ZARWELL. It’s not.
Posted in Criminal Law, DUI
Tagged DC, District of Columbia, DUI, DWI, Evidence, Jury Trials, OWI, Pre-trial, Scientific Evidence, Trial, Trials
I was consulted on a case the other day where a person had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession (of something that’s not marijuana) over his lawyer’s warnings that it make him removable. The judge also (post-Padilla) made sure that the person knew that there could be immigration consequences. But all the person could hear was that the prosecutor would be asking for probation if he accepted the plea deal (which was also the likely sentence even after trial).
So you can guess what happened. After an ill-advised trip abroad, the person received a Notice to Appear in immigration court. As a legal permanent resident with medical issues, he was eligible for cancellation of removal (which he ended up getting, with a sympathetic judge). But it could easily have gone the other way. Cancellation is a discretionary remedy, which means that the judge could have denied it if he had a good reason to do so. Continue reading
Unlike every other drug you can (illegally) possess in the District, the D.C. Council has made possession of any amount of liquid PCP a felony punishable by up to 3 years and/or $3000 fine.* In part, this was because the D.C. Council felt that PCP is a more dangerous drug than other so-called “hard drugs,” in that the Council believes that:
Although a person might commit a crime related to heroin or cocaine (usually a robbery to obtain the money to purchase the heroin or cocaine), individuals often commit crimes because they are on PCP. PCP give users the feeling of strength and invulnerability.
Obviously, the D.C. Council has collectively forgotten the ’80′s and the heyday of powder cocaine. Anyway, the D.C. Council then goes on to list several bizarre crimes committed on PCP as testified to by Patricia Riley, special council to the U.S. Attorney for D.C. Ms. Riley testified that:
A friend I talked to about this testimony this morning remembered a case where a man stabbed his girlfriend 57 times. I remember a case where a woman put her baby in the microwave and turned it on.
There was no support or testimony about any actions Ms. Riley may have taken to verify that these acts actually occurred. Unsupported urban legends don’t belong in sworn testimony to the D.C. Council. Continue reading
A colleague recently asked me whether the DC post-and-forfeit procedure after arrest is properly considered a conviction under federal and immigration law. The simple answer is that the post-and-forfeit procedure does not equate to a conviction. Continue reading
I am working on an appeal from a DUI conviction. I enjoy reading other lawyers’ trial transcripts seeing what works and doesn’t and coming up with ideas for my own trials. In DC, first offense DUI defendants are not entitled to a jury trial, which can be frustrating as many judges will accept what police officers say as gospel, even when obviously “shading the truth” (that’s just a nice way of saying lying). Rarely, however, do I see an officer make it so obvious as the following when responding to questions about the procedures he followed in giving the Field Sobriety Tests:
A. Are we going to go back and forth with another smoke screen? . . . You know, we’re going to go back and forth with these smokescreen questions. I’m just going to tell you I don’t recall.
Recently, in browsing a well-known local lawyer’s website, I found the following “News” article on their blog:
Attorney X convinced a [local] prosecutor to dismiss Armed Robbery charges, all felonies, and all gun charges, despite the defendant being caught nearly red-handed with a shotgun in his fleeing vehicle.
The defendant plead to Second Degree Assault, a misdemeanor, giving him a strong chance to avoid certain deportation that he would have faced with any felony or gun charge. He will be eligible for parole in one month.
While there may be some ethical concern over publicizing past successes without adequately informing potential clients that there is no guarantee of such success in any particular case, that is not my main concern. The biggest problem with this self-serving news article is that it may harm the client in the future. Continue reading
Posted in Criminal Law, Immigration
Tagged Crime Involving Moral Turpitude, Criminal Immigration, DC, District of Columbia, Felonies, Immigration, Immigration Court, Maryland, Removal Defence, Washington
To live up to its name, forensic science must conform to the scientific method, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” The scientific method seeks above all to prove or disprove hypotheses through testing in order to determine whether a particular conclusion is reliable. If recent history has taught us anything, it’s that forensic science often falls short of this ideal. But we as criminal defense lawyers can’t expose these failings without better information on lab procedures. I have written about cross-examining drug experts here. Continue reading