Articles Tagged with MPD

The District of Columbia is unique for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that there are dozens of police departments whose officers regularly patrol the city. Between the Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Secret Service, the Metro Transit Police, the United States Park Police, the Capitol Police, the myriad university police forces and more, D.C. residents can practically be pulled over or arrested anywhere by any force at any time. That being said, it is always helpful to have an understanding of the different federal and local police forces which have jurisdiction in Washington, D.C. and to know their jurisdictions. Here is an overview of some of the most prevalent police forces in D.C. who can pull you over and potential arrest you for a DC DUI or DWI:

1. District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD)

The Metropolitan Police, or MPD, is the local police force for the District of Columbia, and its jurisdiction covers the entirety of the District. MPD operates like any other city police department and serves the city as its local police force.  MPD is probably the most common agency to make arrests for DUI’s in DC and many of the MPD officers are certified to administer the standardized field sobriety tests and operate breathalyzer machines.

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sleep-1431410What started out as a mission to satisfy a late-night craving, ended in disaster for one Florida man when a police officer found him sleeping in his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru.

As explained in a recent Los Angeles Times article, the driver fell asleep while placing his order early one Friday morning.  After the drive-thru attendant woke the driver up, he pulled his car into a parking spot to wait for his order there.  Not long after the driver parked his car, a police officer who had been dining inside the restaurant, noticed him sleeping.  The driver explained to the officer that he was just waiting on the food he’d ordered, but the officer knew something the man did not—he had actually never ordered his food.  Suspecting the driver may be under the influence, the officer asked him to take a roadside breath test but he refused.  However, the man was eventually charged with DUI after failing a field sobriety test.

This news article demonstrates the confusing nature of what it means to “operate” a motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence.  Employing the general standards of common sense, one would think the driver wasn’t in control of his vehicle in this situation because the car was parked and the driver was asleep.  In the District of Columbia, however, common sense does not prevail.

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1423322313o0gx3If you operate a vehicle in the District, DC law states that you have given consent to submit to a breathalyzer test if you get stopped by the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) for suspected DUI or DWI. However, MPD is not going to force you to take a breathalyzer test. You can refuse to submit to testing. At Scrofano Law PC, while the facts of every case are different, we believe that if you have had even a drop of alcohol, refusing to take a breathalyzer test will usually better protect you and your rights.

To convict someone of DUI, the government must prove that the person (1) operated a motor vehicle in DC, and (2) was intoxicated. Without breathalyzer results, it is more difficult for the government to prove that you were intoxicated. DC criminal laws allow the government to use your refusal to take the breath test as evidence that you were intoxicated. What this means is that the government will provide a judge with proof that you refused to take the test and argue that you must have refused because you were feeling guilty about drinking and driving.

For first time DC DUI or DWI offenders who refuse to take a breathalyzer test, the government has to provide more evidence than just your breathalyzer refusal to prove that you were intoxicated. For example, the government will have an MPD officer testify about the way you were acting when you got pulled over and why they thought you were intoxicated based on your actions—like odor of alcohol on breath, performance on the SFST’s, and other observations. For people charged with a second DUI or DWI offense in DC who refuse to take a breathalyzer test, a different legal standard applies.

DC DUI and DWI laws state that if a second time DC DUI offender refuses to take a breathalyzer test, a jury is allowed to presume a person was intoxicated based only on the refusal. As a second time DUI or DWI offender, if you refuse to take a breathalyzer there is a rebuttable presumption that you were intoxicated. A rebuttable presumption means that unless you can prove that you were not intoxicated, a jury can find you guilty of DUI based solely on the fact that you refused to take the breathalyzer test.

You might be thinking “I only had a few drinks. Wouldn’t it have been easier to prove I wasn’t drunk if I submitted to the breathalyzer test?” Not exactly. MPD has a history of problems with their breathalyzer program. This no-win situation is exactly why the rebuttable presumption for second time DUI offenders is a highly contentious area of the law.

In our legal system, you are innocent until proven guilty—at least that is how the system is supposed to work. For second time DUI offenders who refuse to take the breathalyzer test, you are essentially guilty until you prove yourself innocent. The DC Court of Appeals has not decided whether the rebuttable presumption is constitutional, but many DC Superior Court judges have ruled that it is unconstitutional and have refused to apply it.

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dutch-weed-2-jpg-1206038-mMarijuana decriminalization took effect a few weeks ago and its important to know the facts before you spark up. First and foremost, marijuana remains illegal under federal law. There is a good chance that at least the United States Park Police and the Capitol Police—both of which have jurisdiction to make arrests in DC—will continue to make arrests for marijuana possession. Whether the United States Attorney’s Office will then prosecute those arrests in federal district court remains to be seen.

Under District of Columbia law, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is now punishable by a $25.00 citation. The citation is akin to a speeding ticket. It does not carry possible jail time. That means if the Metropolitan Police Department (or “MPD”)—the District’s local police force—stops you and finds less than one ounce of weed, the officer should only give you a citation and let you on your way. However, smoking marijuana in public remains illegal under both federal and local law. That means if you get caught by any police agency smoking weed in public, you will likely get arrested. The penalty for smoking weed in public is akin to getting arrested for possessing an open container of alcohol.

The offense of smoking marijuana in public carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. The Office of the Attorney General will prosecute this new crime. It also remains to be seen how aggressively that office will prosecute that crime. It is possible they could offer diversion for first offenders. It will also be interesting to see how DC Superior Court judges typically sentence people for this crime. The best way to avoid criminal prosecution is to refrain from smoking anywhere in public, which includes in a vehicle, on streets, sidewalks, parks, alleys, parking areas, and any publicly accessible private property (like a store or restaurant).

Selling marijuana remains illegal and will likely be prosecuted aggressively. In my view, this provision is one of the major flaws in the new law. The City Council has now likely increased demand for a substance that remains illegal to sell. That is one of the reasons Scrofano Law supports full scale legalization (like Colorado and Washington). However, this law is a step in the right direction.

Finally, MPD officers can no longer use the smell of marijuana as reasonable suspicion to search someone or a vehicle. There is an exception to this provision, however, where police suspect someone is driving under the influence of marijuana, which remains criminalized. I expect to see an increase in arrests for driving under the influence of marijuana.

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This post is the second part in the two part series discussing consequences of a DC DUI conviction.  The first part discussed direct consequences, which involved things like probation and jail time.  This discussion is not meant to be a complete list of all collateral beer-vector-1438087-mconsequences for a DC DUI or DWI conviction–just some of the most common.

The first major collateral consequence is the loss of one’s driver’s license or driving privilege.  In the District of Columbia, just an arrest for a DUI can trigger a license suspension or the suspension of one’s driving privileges in the city.  When DC police arrest someone for DUI, they are supposed to issue what’s called a Notice of Proposed Suspension.  The form should be read carefully because it provides instructions on how to prevent an immediate license suspension for the arrest.  The notice instructs the arrestee to apply for a hearing in person at the DC Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of arrest (or fifteen days for an out of state resident).

If the arrestee does not apply for this hearing, the license or driving privileges (for an out of state resident) will be suspended or revoked.  I recommend immediately contacting an experienced DC DUI lawyer if arrested for DUI.  Many people do not read the notices or are not sure what they are supposed to do to prevent license suspension.  Applying for the hearing will basically freeze the suspension from taking effect.  It will then be up to a hearing examiner at the DMV at some future hearing date to decide whether the suspend the license or driving privileges.

Independent of the possible suspension for a DUI or DWI arrest, if convicted for DUI, the DC DMV will revoke someone’s license or driving privileges for six months or one year.  That is a major collateral consequence of a conviction.  Unlike some states, the DC DMV does not have a mechanism to apply for or obtain a limited license or worker’s license.  That means if convicted for DUI, that person cannot lawfully drive in the District of Columbia at all.

Another major collateral consequence of a DC DUI or DWI conviction is having a conviction for a misdemeanor come up in one’s background check.  That means if applying for a job with the government or a private employer who does background checks, the conviction will appear.  Having the conviction could prevent an employer from hiring the applicant or could prevent the government from extending a security clearance.

A third major collateral consequence is skyrocketing car insurance.  Many insurance companies will drop drivers who are convicted for a DUI offense.  In addition, if convicted for DUI, the only car insurance available may be what’s called “SR-22 Insurance.”  SR-22 is a special type of insurance that carries high premiums and is required by many states, including the District of Columbia, after getting convicted for DUI or DWI.

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file291260895708In August of 2012, the District of Columbia City Council amended the city’s DUI laws to include increased maximum penalties, increased mandatory minimums, and a whole host of other changes.  One important change that’s not talked about a lot is the change to the city’s hit and run laws.  Most people think if you are involved in an accident its okay just to leave a note with your information (if you hit a parked car by accident) or to exchange information on the scene.

DC’s current hit and run laws require when you are involved in an accident, you must not only stop and exchange information but also call the police and wait for the police to arrive on scene.  That means if you stop and exchange information, that is not enough.  You could exchange insurance information, leave the scene, and later be charged with leaving after colliding.  Leaving after colliding is a misdemeanor traffic offense that carries a maximum penalty of 90 days and/or a $500.00 fine (if property damage occurs) or 180 days and/or a $1,000.00 fine (if personal injury occurs).

The Attorney General’s Office prosecutes DC leaving after colliding charges aggressively.  If, as I have blogged about before, the OAG treats DUI’s like murder cases, leaving after colliding (or “LAC”) are their armed robberies.  The OAG does not typically offer diversion in LAC cases although they will do under some limited circumstances.

There are some days where the wastefulness in the criminal justice system makes me sick.  Last Wednesday, Novemberpolice-officer-1262266-m 7 was one of those days.  On the weekend of October 13, 2013, during the government shutdown, the Metropolitan Police Department conducted “Operation off the Streets 2.”  This operation, which probably cost the city millions of dollars in resources, resulted in the arrest of over 60 people in undercover prostitution operations.

Almost everyone arrested were first time offenders or people with very limited criminal history.  Almost everyone arrested was released on what’s called “citation release.”  That means the police released them at the station after booking them and gave them a citation to come to court at a future date.  That brings us to November 7—the day they set all 60 of these arrests for arraignment.  Some of them hired DC prostitution lawyers in advance others got court appointed attorneys on the day of arraignment.

All of these arrests occurred in a single police district, Third District, which encompasses Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, the U St and 14th St Corridor, and downtown near Metro Center and McPherson Square.  In this “operation,” the police went out and created crime where crime didn’t exist then arrested folks so that they could boast how much crime they are fighting.

Of the sixty or so cases that came through arraignment on November 7, here is a typical fact pattern: intoxicated guy or guys walking from a bar downtown, a scantily dressed female (undercover cop) hollers at the guy to come talk, intoxicated guy obliges, undercover cop makes some vague innuendos or outright offers sex, intoxicated guy says ‘uh, ok.’  Arrest team comes out from the shadows and makes the arrest.

The beauty of these so-called “sting” operations is that, as a matter of routine, the undercover officer does not record the conversation.  I have a theory as to why undercover cops do not record conversations where the saying of actual specific words is what makes someone actually guilty of the specific crime and its not because MPD does not have the technology or resources to do something anyone with a cell phone can do.

Police invest a tremendous amount of resources into sting operations.  Think about the person hours alone: the undercover officer, the arrest team (usually 3 or 4 officers), the transport, the radio dispatch, the booking officer at the station, the property clerk who takes the arrestee’s property, etc.  In many of these cases, the police rented expensive hotel rooms at downtown hotels.  If a sting operation is not successful, then it’s a tremendous amount of resources wasted.  So, the undercover is under pressure to be successful.  What constitutes a successful operation?  If the target, says the magic words (in this case agrees to pay money for sex).

Why wouldn’t MPD want verifiable evidence that the target actually committed the crime?  My experience in defending these types of cases has been that the undercover simply arrests the person and writes in the report that the target said the magic words and committed the crime no matter what.  Without a recording, the undercover is both the person under pressure to conduct a successful operation and the sole person who judges whether the operation was successful.  Few cases actually end up in trial.  The ones that do are not jury demandable, so a Superior Court judge decides whether the undercover officer was truthful.  In other words: no recording, no accountability.

The ironic thing about this big operation that probably consumed millions of dollars in taxpayer resources is that the government will probably not get a single conviction out of it.  Like I said, most people arrested were first time offenders or people with limited criminal history.  I was in court and watched dozens of them enter deferred prosecution agreements.  So, hats off MPD, there will be an influx of embarrassed men and women doing community service in the city for the next four months.  Mission accomplished.

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private-sign-1382045-mIf you are arrested in the District of Columbia, the police will confiscate your property.  The police will take your property and in most cases they make it very difficult (if not impossible) for you to get your property back.  When they take your property, there are three primary manners in which they categorize the property, which determine the process you must use to get it back.

First, personal property, which may include keys, wallet, and other personal items.  That type of property is the easiest to get back.  The police should give you a property receipt, which you can take back to the police station to get your items returned.  However, the police will not release personal effects to a third-party.  That means if you are locked up after your arrest, you cannot send a friend or family member to pick up the property,

In many cases, the police will confiscate your property and mark it for use as evidence in the case.  In this scenario, you cannot get your stuff back until after the case is resolved.  In addition, even if your case is dismissed or you are found not guilty at trial, the police will make it administratively difficult to get the property back.  In other words, they will throw up a bunch of bureaucratic hurdles to prevent you from getting your property back.  The first step in the process requires the prosecutor to submit to MPD a form PD 81-C, which basically states that the government has no objection to the release of the property.

Theoretically, that should be enough to get your property back.  However, the Evidence Control Branch routinely denies ever receiving the PD 81C.  I have had cases where a prosecutor has gone to great efforts to get the PD 81C to MPD and made completely clear that the government had no objection to the release of property only to have MPD still refuse to give my client their property back.  In that case, the ultimate way to get the property back is for your DC criminal defense lawyer to file a Motion with the Court requesting that the Court order MPD to release the property.  Usually, the government will not oppose the Motion and the Court will grant it.

Finally, and the most difficult process, which will be the subject of its own future blog posting is where the government moves to confiscate the property based on civil forfeiture.  Here is an example of one of the most ridiculous civil forfeiture I have encountered.  Client was arrested for possession of marijuana and a DC DUI.  The police seized the vehicle he was driving and put it in the forfeiture process.  The client ultimately plead guilty to a lesser offense and had both charges dismissed.

However, the client still had to go through the cumbersome forfeiture process.  The client had to post a $600.00 bond.  Once he did that, he had to wait several months for the Office of the Attorney General to decide whether it would initiate forfeiture proceedings.  Fortunately, the OAG’s office decided not to initiate forfeiture proceedings and he ultimately got his vehicle back–months after his DC arrest.  However, had the OAG’s office decided to initiate forfeiture proceedings, he would have had to defend and win a civil lawsuit just to get his own vehicle back from the government.

The DC government has little respect for personal property.  Even if you are innocent, found not guilty, or your case gets no papered or dismissed, MPD and the OAG my still keep your personal property.  The civil forfeiture process puts police profit over personal property rights.

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