Opinions/Cases

Williams v. U.S.: Brandishing Knife in Self-Defense Not Excessive

June 8, 2014 Opinions/Cases

You have the right to use a reasonable amount of force in self-defense assuming that (1) you actually believe that you are in imminent danger of bodily harm and (2) you have reasonable grounds for that belief. The question is not whether the use of force appeared to be necessary when looking back on the […]

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Holmes v. United States: Video-Assisted Testimony Not Hearsay

June 6, 2014 Evidence

It was a creative argument.  But, not seeing it go very far, I was frankly surprised that the D.C. Court of Appeals devoted an entire opinion to it in Holmes v. United States, __ A.3d __ (D.C. 2014). Marvin Holmes was convicted of stealing two shirts from the Saks Fifth Avenue store in Friendship Heights. […]

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Owens v. United States: The Standard for Defining State-of-Mind in an RSP Case is a Subjective One

June 6, 2014 Opinions/Cases

In law school, we learned the difference between a subjective standard in defining a mental state and an objective one. The subjective standard focuses on the defendant’s actual state of mind. With the objective standard, it is how a reasonable person in the same position would feel. Most criminal statutes seem to use the objective […]

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Jacobs v. United States: Narrowing the Definition of “Seizure” in D.C.

May 31, 2014 Legal Concepts/Principles

You are sitting in a legally parked car on the side of the road minding your own business when a police car pulls in directly behind you and activates its overhead lights. How many people would feel that they were perfectly free to drive away at this point?  Anybody?  Anybody at all? Because this is […]

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Navarette v. California: Anonymous Tips, Reasonable Suspicion, and Car Stops

April 23, 2014 Opinions/Cases

The state of the law with respect to reasonable suspicion, anonymous tips and car stops is already pretty muddy.  Now, with Navarette v. California, 572 U.S. ___ (2014), the Supreme Court has just made it worse. A woman calls 911 to report another car for running her off the road. The woman provides the time […]

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Refining the Definition of “Testimonial Evidence” under Crawford v. Washington

March 20, 2014 Evidence

You take a worthwhile social goal – protecting domestic partners from abuse – and then you contort the U.S. Constitution to achieve that goal. In the days of Ohio v. Roberts, 448 U.S. 56 (1980), the testimony came in as long as it was reliable.  There was no need for the complainant to appear when a […]

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The Duty to Disclose Includes the Duty to Preserve

February 12, 2014 Evidence

Police officers fail to preserve a critical piece of evidence, in this case a video recording taken of the incident in question.  The defendant moves for sanctions.  In opposing this motion, the government argues that the defendant’s arguments about what the recording contained is speculative.  The court agrees. Am I missing something here?  Without the […]

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No Strong-Arming of Defendants Into Accepting Pleas

January 31, 2014 Opinions/Cases

When the two defendants opted for trial, rejecting a deferred sentencing agreement that had been offered by the government, Judge Brian Holeman may have been doing them a favor when he warned them that they would face certain jail-time if convicted.  After all, that is exactly what happened. At the same time, as the D.C. […]

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Is Concession of Guilt In Opening Statement A Guilty Plea?

January 31, 2014 Criminal Procedure

During the defendant’s opening statement at trial, Denardo Hopkins’ lawyer got up in front of the jury and conceded that this client was guilty of felony drug dealing charges.  The issue the D.C. Court of Appeals faced in Hopkins v. United States, __ A.3d __ (D.C. 2014), was this:  Did this admission constitute a guilty […]

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Ortberg v. United States: Unlawful Entry Requires More Than “General Intent”

January 9, 2014 Opinions/Cases

The common law distinction between “general intent” and “specific intent” offenses doesn’t work.  This is what the D.C. Court of Appeals emphasized once again in Adam Ortberg v. United States, ___ A.3d ___ (2013), a recent case dealing with the required mental state for unlawful entry. The defendant in Ortberg was charged with unlawful entry […]

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