Our Practice Areas

A wide array of criminal offenses are charged every day in the District of Columbia. Some of the most common offenses include driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol; drug and gun possession offenses; assault; sex crimes; domestic violence; burglary; and theft-related offenses such as fraud and robbery.

DC criminal defense attorneys have comprehensive experience with arrest warrants, white collar crimes, federal offenses, and a variety of other issues as well.

Criminal Defense in Washington, DC

Legal Coverage for all Types of Criminal Charges

A wide array of criminal offenses are charged every day in the District of Columbia. Some of the most common offenses include driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol; drug and gun possession offenses; assault; sex crimes; domestic violence; burglary; and theft-related offenses such as fraud and robbery.

DC criminal defense attorneys have comprehensive experience with arrest warrants, white collar crimes, federal offenses, and a variety of other issues as well.

Dedicated Criminal Defense Attorneys

Every case is unique, and we take a custom approach to crafting a defensive strategy that builds on the strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of each case. We pride ourselves on maintaining personal contact with our clients, providing updates and continually seeking new avenues of defense.

Our extensive experience serving clients in and out of the courtroom enables us to evaluate circumstances with a practiced eye to determine the best options for your situation. With our dedicated legal staff, we remain focused on meeting your needs throughout the process and we work relentlessly to reach a positive outcome in each case.

Prompt Action is the Best Option

Choosing an attorney to represent your interests and protect your future can be a daunting task, but it is a job better tackled sooner than later. When you start working with a dedicated DC criminal defense lawyer, your attorney can begin providing advice right away regarding actions to take—and what to avoid—to improve the outlook for your case.

Your attorney could also begin advocating on your behalf during all proceedings, both formal and informal. Representation by a seasoned legal counselor provides an invaluable advantage in protecting your rights.

In addition, your lawyer may assist in the process of collecting and preserving valuable evidence that will provide the building blocks for a solid defense. Evidence such as video footage may only be available for a short time after an incident, so it is best to seek and preserve this information as soon as possible.

As time passes, witnesses become harder to locate and the appearance of the alleged crime scene is likely to change, which means evidence may be more scarce and less reliable.

Overall, delays in securing legal representation could prove very costly to your case. It is advisable to schedule an initial consultation with a law firm to learn more about how they could assist in your particular situation and determine whether they would be a good partner in the defensive process.

Criminal Defense in Washington, DC

The legal field is vast, particularly in DC. Lawyers may practice in family law, personal injury law, contract law, corporate law, tort law, intellectual property law, or criminal law. Even within these broad fields, an attorney may choose a narrower focus in terms of which types of cases to handle within those realms.

Just as you would rely on a specialist to treat a serious medical condition, you should rely on an experienced DC criminal defense attorney to handle your legal battle when it involves criminal law. Crimes often have unique defenses, so it is important that your legal team understands the variety of options that may be available to win your case.

For a strong defense and to avoid the common pitfalls those in the criminal justice system often face, it is wise to find a criminal lawyer in DC who is experienced in defending challenging cases. At Price Benowitz, the DC criminal defense lawyers have worked with clients on a wide range of criminal offenses from DUIs to homicide and everything in between. And we endeavor to keep abreast of the latest developments in all areas of criminal law and procedure, so we can put that knowledge to work for our clients.

Benefits of Working with an Experienced DC Criminal Attorney

In the DC criminal justice system, prosecutors gain vast amounts of experience handling cases in the local courts. Those required to defend themselves against criminal charges deserve to have the same experience fighting to protect their interests.

When you work with a seasoned DC criminal lawyer, your attorney could anticipate and preempt prosecuting maneuvers that may jeopardize your case. In addition, your lawyer could thoroughly explain the process, so you know what to expect and how to evaluate your options. While there are no magic tricks of the trade, experienced guidance can give you an advantage when navigating the criminal justice system.

In addition, our investigative team is capable of conducting a thorough investigation into the facts of the case to uncover exonerating evidence. Then we take steps to ensure that evidence is presented in the most favorable light either in negotiations or in court.

We are always on the lookout to challenge procedural missteps and illegalities on the part of the police, investigators, or prosecutors. Even if you are a witness to a crime, contact a knowledgeable defense attorney in DC today.

Areas Where DC Criminal Defense Attorneys May Assist

The breadth and depth of practice at our firm enables us to strenuously defend the interests of clients in all types of criminal matters. Although the law treats some offenses more harshly than others, we believe that every criminal charge deserves a serious defense, because even a “minor” crime could have a major impact on your life.

Our attorneys have assisted clients with a wide range of criminal offenses including:

  • Theft crimes and other property offenses
  • Violent crimes such as assault
  • Gun crimes
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • White collar crimes such as fraud, identity theft, and embezzlement
  • Sex crimes
  • Traffic-related offenses
  • Drug offenses

In addition, DC criminal defense attorneys are prepared to handle numerous types of appeals, even if our attorneys did not assist with the case during the initial trial. The procedures and strategies for appealing a lower court’s decision are vastly different from those used in an initial criminal trial, so anyone seeking to appeal a ruling is advised to work with a legal team experienced handling cases at the appellate level.

Criminal Law in DC

Washington DC, like much of the rest of the country, derives the basis of its scheme of criminal law from the English common law, but uses statutory provisions to define many specific crimes.

Under the common law system, laws are defined and applied based on past court rulings referred to as precedent. In a system based on statutory law, the laws are all contained in a legal code. The criminal laws of DC function with a combination of both common law and statutory law.

Because the Code of the District of Columbia contains provisions defining many criminal offenses and penalties as well as describing criminal procedure, the statutes provide the starting point for understanding what is and is not prohibited under criminal law in DC. These are found in Title 22 and Title 23 of the D.C. Code.

But to thoroughly understand when conduct crosses the line, it is necessary to be familiar with how courts have interpreted these statutes in the past, because past interpretations provide legal precedent that is often binding on future cases.

So effective criminal defense attorneys in DC must not only know the laws as set forth in the code, but also the interpretations of those laws in different types of circumstances. Moreover, they must also understand how to follow the rules of criminal procedure, and how to hold police and prosecutor accountable for violations of procedural, statutory, or Constitutional protections.

What the Prosecution Must Prove to Gain a Conviction

Our system of criminal law is premised on the concept that every person facing charges is presumed innocent until the government prosecutor proves they are guilty of the offense at issue. The definitions of most crimes consist of numerous elements, and the prosecutor must  produce evidence proving each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to prove that the accused individual is guilty of the crime.

For instance, the definition of theft in D.C. Code §22-3211 specifies that “A person commits the offense of theft if that person wrongfully obtains or uses the property of another with intent to deprive the other of a right to the property or a benefit of the property; or to appropriate the property to his or her own use or to the use of a third person.” So, in order to convict someone of theft, the prosecution must prove that the person:

  • Obtained or used property
  • The property belonged to another
  • The use or taking was committed wrongfully
  • The person who took or used the property intended to either appropriate the property or deprive the owner of the property

Evidence must be presented to prove each of these elements. If the prosecution fails to prove an element, or if the defense can create doubt about the proof of an element, then the person accused could not be found guilty of the offense.

In the example of theft, the defense might argue that the person accused took the property to protect it from harm and intended to replace it so that there was no intent to appropriate the property or deprive the owner of it.

Many criminal statutes describe numerous ways an offense may be committed. The crime of shoplifting, for example, may be committed under D.C. Code §3213 by either concealing property, taking possession of property, removing price tags or other identifying marks, altering price tags or other identifying marks, or changing the container in which the property is displayed.

All of these actions must be taken “knowingly” and with intent to defraud the property owner or appropriate the property without the full amount of payment.

State of Mind Can Be Crucial in Criminal Cases

Intent

Intent or another state of mind is a required element in many criminal offenses, so proof regarding state of mind often plays a key role in defending against criminal charges. Sometimes the prosecution must demonstrate that a person acted with specific intent to cause harm or achieve another objective.

Recklessness

In some instances, it is necessary to prove that an individual acted recklessly. For example, D.C. Code §50 50–2201.04(b) prohibits reckless driving, which the statute defines as driving “carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of others, or without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger a person or property.”

Criminal Negligence

In still other situations, neither specific intent or nor reckless conduct is required for a violation, but the person accused must be acting in a criminally negligent manner. With respect to laws concerning criminal abuse and neglect of vulnerable adults, criminal negligence is defined in D.C. Code §22-934 as failing to discharge a duty to provide care to a vulnerable adult or elderly person “knowingly, willfully or through a wanton, reckless or willful indifference.”

The Victim’s State of Mind

Finally, sometimes the state of mind at issue is not that of the person accused of criminal behavior but of the person allegedly victimized by that behavior. The offense of stalking, for instance, as defined in D.C. Code §21.-3133 occurs when someone engages in a course of conduct targeted toward a particular person.

In order for the pattern of conduct to constitute stalking, it must meet one of three possible criteria. The prosecution could show that the accused person engaged in conduct with the specific intent to cause the target to feel fearful, alarmed, or emotionally distressed.

Or the prosecution could show that the accused individual undertook the pattern of conduct knowing that it would reasonably cause the targeted person to feel fearful, alarmed, or emotionally distressed.

Finally, the prosecution may also demonstrate that the accused person “should have known” that the course of conduct “would cause a reasonable person in the individual’s circumstances” to feel fearful, alarmed, or emotionally distressed.

What Should I Expect for First-Time Charges?

When someone is first arrested for a DUI or DWI, they will usually get a citation to appear in court about three to four weeks from the date of the arrest. The first court date is the arraignment date, and no evidence or witnesses will be presented on that date. On the arraignment date, the person and their attorney will plead not guilty and set a second court date that will be in approximately four or five weeks.

During that interim period, a DC DUI lawyer will have the opportunity to review the police reports and all the evidence the prosecutor plans on using to develop potential defenses. Those defenses can then be used in negotiations to try to resolve the case in a favorable way or to decide whether it is wise to go to trial.

Driving Under the Influence Penalties in Washington DC

DC only requires a person be in physical or operational control of the car. This means they do not actually have to be driving the car in order to be convicted of a DUI. They just have to have the ability to be in control of the car. Whenever someone is in the driver’s seat with access to the keys, that is enough for them to be in operational control of the car.

However, people who have cars that do not require them to put the key in the ignition are even more at risk of being charged DUIs. In a car with keyless ignition, a person could be considered in operational control of the vehicle as long as they are in the driver’s seat even if the car is not on or the key is in their pocket because all they have to do is push the start button to be in control of the car.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences

In DC, if someone provides a breath or blood sample upon being arrested and their blood alcohol content is .20 or higher, they face a mandatory minimum of ten days in jail. It does not matter whether the person has a job, have ever been arrested, what else they have done, or any alcohol treatment programs they have completed, the judge must sentence them to at least ten days if prosecutors are able to prove the reliability of the blood-alcohol-content score..

If someone is charged with their first DWI or DUI, they could face a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail if they are convicted, but there are no mandatory minimum penalties for a BAC below .20. If the person’s BAC is between .25 and .30, they will face a mandatory minimum 15 days in jail if convicted. Lastly, upon conviction, a BAC above .30 will result in a mandatory minimum 20 days in jail.

Consequences for Multiple DUI Offenses

If a person is charged with a DWI or DUI and has received a prior drunk driving conviction within the past 15 years, they could face a fine of $2,500 to $5,000 and imprisonment for a minimum of ten days and a maximum of one year. Two prior drunk driving convictions in the preceding 15 years carries a $2,500 to $10,000 fine and a jail sentence of no more than one year and no less than 15-days.  Each subsequent prior DUI conviction carries an additional 30-day mandatory minimum penalty.

Impaired Drivers Transporting Minors

DC DUI laws include additional penalties for impaired drivers transporting a minor. Whenever a minor is in the car, the driver can face a fine of $500 to $1,000, along with the mandatory jail sentence of five days if the minor was wearing a seat belt or in a car seat. If the minor was not wearing a seat belt or in a car seat, the driver will face a mandatory ten days in jail.

Underage Drivers

DC has a “zero tolerance” law for DWI or DUI drivers under 21. If an underage driver has any measurable amount of alcohol in their system, they will be charged according to DUI standards.

Rights During a Traffic Stop

An experienced DUI attorney in the District of Columbia has several tools readily available to help a person fight their DUI charge. However, the accused can make the situation easier or more difficult by the choices they make beginning with the initial traffic stop.

It is important for everyone to understand their rights and to protect them. Whenever someone is stopped, they should keep in mind that they have the right to remain silent, even prior to their arrest and being read their rights. If an officer asks where the person has been, whether they have been drinking, or how much they have had to drink, any answer given can be used as evidence against a person in court. Giving a statement in an effort to look helpful and compliant can give authorities the evidence they need to prosecute and can jeopardize any potential defense.

If an officer finds probable cause, they may ask the individual to take a breathalyzer test. There is no universal rule for whether a person should take or refuse a breathalyzer test in DC. Every person’s situation is different. Sometimes, it may be to a person’s advantage to take a breathalyzer test. For instance, if the individual has never been arrested for driving under the influence and has had a relatively small amount of alcohol to drink, then it may be in their best interests to take a breath test.

However, the person should be aware of how their breath sample can be used as evidence against them. If they give a breath sample, it could be enough evidence to convict them. Someone who refuses to give a breath sample might have a stronger case at trial. However, in some situations, refusing to give a breath sample can eliminate many non-trial options such as diversion agreements that can give a person a favorable outcome without having to take the risk or paying the financial cost of taking a DUI case to trial.  Furthermore, refusing to provide a breath sample carries a mandatory one-year revocation of a person’s license or DC driving privileges, regardless of the outcome of the criminal DUI case.

If an individual does give a breath sample and they are extremely intoxicated, that blood alcohol content result could mean they would be eligible for mandatory jail time. There are many considerations for a person when deciding whether to give a breath sample. It is always dependent on an individual’s situation rather than a general rule. Contact a DC DUI attorney with any questions about rights during a DUI traffic stop.

DC DUI and Implied Consent Law

If someone is arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in DC, they may be read an Implied Consent Notice and asked to submit to blood alcohol analysis, generally through a breathalyzer machine such as the Intoxilyzer. Implied consent law says that by driving on the roads, the individual has agreed to submit a blood alcohol analysis if asked to do so from law enforcement. Failure to consent to this test leads to the automatic suspension of the driver’s license or DC driving privileges. Even if the person is acquitted of DUI charges or if the case is dismissed, the license suspension remains in place for refusal to submit to testing.

Evidence from Breathalyzer Tests

Blood alcohol concentration from Intoxilyzer analysis is the most frequently used evidence by prosecutors. However, a skilled DC DUI lawyer can analyze the results of breathalyzer machines to possibly challenge their reliability or accuracy.

There is a certain way to conduct these tests in order to ensure an accurate result. An attorney who is trained in the proper maintenance of breathalyzer machines and administration of breath tests could identify any improprieties or inconsistencies and use them to question the accuracy of blood alcohol analysis results.

Criminal Cases vs. Administrative Hearings

In every DUI case, two separate proceedings are involved. The first is the criminal case that takes place in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. This is the portion of the case where the government is seeking criminal sanctions such as jail time or probationary periods before a DC Superior Court judge

Penalties to a person’s driver’s license, however, can only be imposed through a second, administrative proceeding. Through this proceeding, the District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can revoke a person’s driver’s license or DC driving privileges as a punishment separate and apart from the criminal penalties a person may face in Superior Court. The only way to prevent this license suspension is to request an administrative hearing within the specified period following the receipt of an Official Notice of Proposed Revocation, which a person would receive from the police after their arrest. If this hearing is not requested in a timely manner, the accused’s license or DC driving privileges could be automatically revoked without a hearing. Once the hearing is requested, it could put any revocation action on hold until after the hearing. A DUI lawyer in DC could stand by a person’s side and advocate for them throughout the process.

Building a Strong Defense

A DC DUI lawyer could challenge the accuracy or the admissibility of any evidence when preparing for proceedings and possible defenses against a DUI charge. This includes challenging the accuracy of the police officer’s recollections or statements, the legal or constitutional basis for the person’s arrest, and any searches or questioning the police officer engages in while conducting an investigation.

Also, an investigation could include ensuring the prosecutors provide the evidence necessary to prove any breath, blood, or urine alcohol content levels that supposedly prove a person’s intoxication. The tests have documentation and scientific evidence that must be provided to the defense team that ensures their reliability and accuracy. It is the role of a DUI defense lawyer to make sure that the prosecutor preserves and turns over any evidence that backs up their allegations and alcohol tests.

The most important quality for a DC DUI attorney to possess is the ability to act in their client’s best interest and help the client make informed choices. That can sometimes mean engaging in negotiations with prosecutors to reach a favorable resolution in a case short of proceeding to trial.  That includes negotiations to minimize any jail time a person may face. Depending on the specific situation, negotiations could even result in the complete dismissal of DUI charges.

DC is different from many other jurisdictions concerning DUI offenses as the judges have little control over how these cases proceed. In some states, judges can reduce or dismiss charges or play a role in plea negotiations. That does not happen in DC. Instead, these negotiations only occur between defense attorneys and prosecutors. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the defense attorney to aggressively pursue negotiations to see if there are any options short of a trial that can achieve a positive result while minimizing any risks a client may face. The DC DUI attorney works diligently to decrease the impact a DUI arrest may have on the defendant’s permanent criminal record.

How a Washington, DC DUI Attorney Could Help

If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in Washington, DC, time is of the essence. From protecting your rights, representing you at an administrative hearing, reinstating your license, and building the strongest defense possible, DC DUI lawyer Shawn Sukumar could diligently address all your legal needs. An experienced attorney could keep your best interest in mind while building a defense and negotiating with the prosecutors.

Call today for a free evaluation of your case and find out how to protect your rights and reputation. Call our law offices any time, any day of the week. The sooner an attorney is contacted, the sooner they could begin working on your case.

Extracurricular Impact Scholarship

Attorney Shawn Sukumar believes extracurricular activities are essential in a students’ development, which is why he created The Extracurricular Impact Scholarship. This award will be given to one individual who best describes how being involved in extracurricular activities has had a positive impact on their life. Please visit our scholarship page for more information on how to apply!

Benefits of Working With a DC Criminal Lawyer

There are a number of great reasons to work with a defense attorney in Washington, DC, who understands the layout and procedure of a wide variety of criminal cases.

By signing on with an experienced DC criminal lawyer, you are making an investment in your own future by giving yourself access to a dedicated legal advocate who could provide advice and representation at all stages of the proceedings, from start to finish.

Your lawyer may be able to investigate your case and bring to light evidence that might otherwise have been overlooked or under-emphasized during your court case.

In the event that your charges are fairly minor, swift action on the part of your attorney could even make it possible for the charges to be greatly reduced, or even dismissed altogether. But delays may reduce your chances for success.

The bottom line is that you should seek out a DC criminal lawyer who has experience dealing with cases like yours and who has a demonstrable track record that can be traced from client reviews and case results.

If you are interested in speaking with the DC criminal defense attorneys at our firm to learn how we can assist in your case, you may call our law offices and complete your free initial consultation today.

Clearing a DC Criminal Record

Long after the disposition of a criminal case, a criminal record often haunts those who have been arrested, even if the case was dropped. Records of an arrest remain visible to potential employers, landlords, banks and anyone else who undertakes a search. So, it is wise to take steps to have this record sealed.
An experienced DC criminal defense lawyer could advise you whether you are eligible to have your records expunged and help with the process. In some instances, even those with convictions can take steps to clean up their records, reducing the potential for social and professional stigma.

Summer Fletcher's 5K & 10K

We are excited to sponsor the 2019 Summer Fletcher’s 5K & 10K on August 10! Join us for a 5K or 10K race that benefits Operation Turbo, a nonprofit which sends care packages to American troops around the world.  For more information on this event, visit our Summer Fletcher’s Race

Get Free Consultation