Our Washington DC Criminal Defense Lawyer handles a wide range of criminal cases including but not limited to:
- DUI/DWI Defense
- Drug Crimes
- Gun Crimes
- Sex Offenses
- Misrepresentation of Age
Successful criminal defense is not only premised on full understanding of the applicable criminal code and cases, but on the courtroom legal maneuvering and the motion practice to exclude or suppress exculpatory evidence and to clear path to a non-guilty verdict or dismissal.
Below is a brief summary of the criminal procedure in the District of Columbia:
DC CRIMINAL CASE
A criminal case is often initiated by effectuating an arrest. In more serious criminal cases and major felonies there will be a grand jury presentation and indictment to cement the criminal process either pre-arrest or post arrest.
In most misdemeanor cases though an arrest commences the criminal process. There has to be a probable cause to effectuate and arrest. This is a very low threshold and the legality of an arrest can be challenged through the criminal process especially when there are fourth amendment violations.
Generally if the defendant has no prior convictions, or the arrest is not for major felony, after the processing at the police station, the defendant is released via citation to return to court for an arraignment.
In more serious charges or where there are prior arrests or convictions, the defendant is transferred after the processing to the courthouse for arraignment and review of the conditions of release.
The arrest record may be expunged and sealed depending on the type of arrest, and the overall disposition of the case. Refer to the statute listed below for more details.
It is the formal presentation of the charges. The prosecutors generally formally charge the defendant in the courtroom as well as provide the defense various summary police report and details of the incident giving rise to the charges.
The defendant formally waives the reading of the charging document and enters an initial plea via DC Criminal Defense Lawyer – almost invariably a NOT GUILTY PLEA.
The case is generally set for a status hearing 4-6 weeks after the arraignment if a misdemeanor and preliminary hearing if a felony. If there is no indictment by the preliminary hearing date, then the government has the burden to establish there is probably cause to move forward with the charges.
In the misdemeanor cases, the status hearing is an opportunity to finalize discovery requests and issues as well as to consider all plea offers in order to reach an early disposition.
In low level misdemeanor cases with no prior convictions they may be an offer for diversion, or defer sentencing agreement. It is important to explore all plea offers before diverting the case to trial.
DISCOVERY AND MOTIONS
An experienced DC Criminal lawyer begins case preparation at the arraignment or even before if there is a police investigation prior to the arrest.
Discovery requests and motions practice are an integral part of case preparation. The discovery requests is purposed to gather all relevant case information and documents for diligent review. Oftentimes criminal cases can be dismissed on procedure and law enforcement errors. A thorough discovery should reveal defects in the government’s case.
Motions practice is generally used to exclude evidence that was obtained illegally and is inculpatory or to highlight or top include evidence that is exculpatory.
It is imperative to explore all plea offers and options before rushing to set trial dates. Oftentimes with persuasive and persistent plea negotiations a savvy defense lawyer can possibly obtain a more predictable and advantages result than rushing to trial which can be unpredictable.
In certain misdemeanor cases, there are the first time offender programs and diversions. If the charges and the defendant qualifies, at the status hearing the case is deferred for a period for completion of community service or other court ordered diversionary. Upon completion of the court order services, the case will be dismissed in court and only the arrest record remains.
There is also the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (“DPA”) and the Deferred Sentencing Agreements (“DSA”). With DPA, the government generally agrees to continue for a period for the defendant to complete a determined set of services, such as community services, anger management, mental health services or evaluations, etc. Upon successful completion of the services, the government will dismiss the case.
Deferred Sentencing Agreements though work differently. The defendant is required to plead guilty at the status hearing and the matter is set for sentencing within 6 months to a year. If the defendant completes the court order services successfully, the guilty plead is withdrawn and case dismissed. If services are not completed, then the court moves directly to sentencing as scheduled.
Generally the court is not privy to the plea agreements or negotiations until and unless parties seek to bind the court regarding sentencing recommendations. In cases where the court may impose a sentence harsher than the government’s allocution or recommendations — it is advisable to bind the court to the plea terms before entering into the plea proceedings to ensure sentence imposed is not beyond the recommended sentence by the government.
If all plea negotiations fail, then the next step would be to present evidence at trial. The government would have the burden of beyond reasonable doubt to prove their case. At trial, the DC Criminal Defense Lawyer would put forward witnesses and other evidence to create reasonable doubt in order to get an acquittal.
This is where trial experience and execution would make the difference between a guilty verdict or a non guilty verdict and acquittal.
Arrest records as well as public criminal records maybe eligible for expungement. The specific eligibility requirements vary from case to case. The expungement process is a very effective tool to reverse the effects of a criminal arrest and to seal the records from public view.
If the trial Judge was a Magistrate, then the first level appeal would be handled by an associate Judge. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals will have jurisdiction to review the case decided by a DC Superior Court Judge.
It is critical during the trial process for the record to be preserved by timely objections and motions to the court. A successful appeal process starts at trial and an experienced Washington DC Criminal Lawyer foresees and preserves the appellate arguments at trial.
Contact our Washington DC Criminal Defense Lawyer to schedule an initial case evaluation and analysis.