U.S. Capitol building

Longus v. U.S.: On Bias, Extrinsic Evidence, and the Collateral Fact Rule

Jamison KoehlerEvidence, Legal Concepts/Principles, Opinions/Cases

Bias is “the powerful distorting effect on human testimony of the witness’s emotions or feelings towards the parties or the witness’ self-interest in the outcome of the case.”  That is McCormick on Evidence, and it is the clearest, most accurate definition I have ever seen of what constitutes bias. McCormick continues: “[B]ias, or any acts, relationships, or motives reasonably likely to produce …

D.C. v. Loftus: Operating On A Suspended License Is A Strict Liability Offense

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses, Opinions/Cases

Driving without a license has long been a strict liability offense in D.C. That is, in order to secure a conviction for this offense, the government need only prove that you didn’t have a driver’s license at the time you were driving. It does not need to prove any type of criminal intent or guilty knowledge; in this case, that …

Jefferson Memorial

Defining “Readily Available” in Clyburn v. U.S.

Jamison KoehlerFirearms/Weapons, Legal Concepts/Principles, Opinions/Cases

You can be sitting at work and “constructively possess” something tucked away in your bedroom closet at home. It is not whether you actually physically possess the piece of property at the time; it is whether you have the “power and intent” to control it.  And you are presumed to both know about and have the power to control the …

Once Again, No Consequences for Prosecutorial Misconduct

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Legal Concepts/Principles, Opinions/Cases

On the morning of trial, the prosecutor finds out that the testimony provided by a police officer at the preliminary hearing was inaccurate. Although the prosecutor himself is not planning to call this particular police officer to testify at trial, he knows that the defense attorney is. So what does prosecutor do?  Does he immediately contact the defense attorney to …

U.S. Capitol building

Enforcing Brady v. Maryland: Toward An “Open File” Discovery Requirement

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Legal Concepts/Principles, Opinions/Cases

A constitutional right without any way of enforcing that constitutional right is hardly any right at all.  That’s a pretty accurate description of the government’s obligations under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution and Brady v. Maryland to turn over exculpatory information to the defense. Relying almost entirely on the goodwill and integrity of the individual prosecutor assigned …

U.S. Capitol Building

Wynn v. U.S.: Further Clarification of “Obstruction of Justice” in D.C.

Jamison KoehlerOpinions/Cases

A person is guilty of obstruction of justice in D.C. if that person “corruptly or by threats of force” obstructs or impedes — or attempts to obstruct or impede — “the due administration of justice in any official proceeding.” The question decided in Cotey Wynn et al v. United States, 48 A.3d 181 (D.C. 2012), an opinion issued last month …

Same Standard, Different Penalties for Drinking-and-Driving in DC

Jamison KoehlerDUI and Driving Offenses, Opinions/Cases

D.C. Superior Court judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys have traditionally treated the criminal offense of Operating While Impaired (OWI) as if it were a lesser-included offense of Driving Under The Influence (DUI).  Although a specific standard for OWI cannot be found in either the statute or case law, judges have repeatedly stated that in order to secure a conviction for …

D.C. skyline

Interpreting Arizona v. Gant’s “Reasonable Belief” Standard for Warrantless Car Searches

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Opinions/Cases

In Arizona v. Gant, the U.S. Supreme Court helped slow a continuing trend in the chipping away of Fourth Amendment protections. For years, most jurisdictions allowed police officers to search any car whose occupants had been arrested, even when the traditional justifications for the warrantless car search –officer safety and preservation of evidence – were absent.  Typical of the resulting practice …

In Re D.M.: When Can You Dismiss a Juvenile Case for “Social Reasons”?

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Juveniles, Opinions/Cases

The problem with using a canon of statutory interpretation to justify a legal opinion is that you can usually find some other canon to arrive at the exact opposite conclusion. For example, to support its recent holding in In Re D.M., 47 A.3d 539 (D.C. 2012), the D.C. Court of Appeals used the rule that, whenever possible, different provisions within a …