Washington DC Criminal Defense Lawyer

David Benowitz is an experienced attorney with a successful track record of fighting for his clients. As a criminal defense lawyer in Washington, DC, Mr. Benowitz is committed to providing the highest level criminal defense at affordable prices. En Español.


Mr. Benowitz is AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, has earned a perfect 10 rating by AVVO, and is a member of the National College of DUI Defense. He is also the only Washington, DC-based criminal defense attorney who has been board-certified as a criminal advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Benowitz is also a faculty member at Harvard Law School’s Trial Advocacy Workshop. David Benowitz Criminal Lawyer DC If you have been contacted by a law enforcement agency, you should not make any statements, even those denying involvement, as they could be used to build a case against you. Instead, you should politely decline to comment and then contact a Washington DC criminal defense lawyer immediately. The sooner you reach out to an experienced attorney, the sooner they could begin an investigation that could help you defeat the government’s case.

Federal Charges

While many criminal charges are tried in DC Superior Court, some offenses constitute a violation of federal law. These offenses are prosecuted by the United States government and, as a result, have the full force of a number of federal agencies supporting the prosecution. Agencies conducting investigations, undercover operations, and sting operations on behalf of the government include:

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATF)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Any offense that occurs on federal property can be charged as a federal crime. In addition, white collar crimes, cybercrimes, and drug crimes are among the criminal offenses most frequently prosecuted as federal crimes. Internet sex crimes, such as possession of child pornography and online enticement of a minor, are also vigorously prosecuted in federal court. Federal criminal charges are serious, with a conviction leading to stringent sentencing in federal prison without the possibility of parole. If you are investigated for a federal crime, it may be crucial to seek legal counsel from a Washington DC criminal defense attorney and defense team experienced at handling federal cases. Potential evidence against you is gathered during lengthy investigations that may include wiretapping and other surveillance conducted by agents. Finding a federal criminal attorney in DC with the resources to build a defense against charges is extremely important. If you believe you are being investigated for a federal offense or if you have been charged with a federal crime, getting legal counsel from an experienced DC criminal defense attorney should be a priority so that you could protect your rights and begin building your defense. More information regarding federal charges and legal representation can be found here.


There are three types of assault that you can be charged within the District of Columbia: simple assault, assault with significant injury, and aggravated assault. Simple assault is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 180 days in prison and/or a $1,000 fine. Assault with significant injury is charged when the injuries to the other party require hospitalization or immediate medical attention. The penalties for this added element are more significant, with a maximum prison sentence of three years, fines that can add up to $12,500, or both. Aggravated assault is the most serious of assault charges. Assault is considered “aggravated” if it causes a substantial risk of death, obvious disfigurement, extreme physical pain, or unconsciousness. The maximum penalties for aggravated assault are ten years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both. Our assault lawyer page contains more information about the differences between these charges, as well as information on when and how they are applied.


Homicide is an umbrella term that applies to any death that occurs at the hand of another. It is important to know that not all homicides are criminal offenses. However, those that are criminal offenses are all deemed felonies within the District of Columbia and, as such, can lead to serious penalties if you are convicted of such an offense. However, this does not mean that there are not strong defense strategies that can be employed. To prove first-degree murder, prosecutors must demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the person who is charged with the crime intended to kill the other individual and that the slaying was an act of premeditation and deliberation. Those convicted of first-degree murder are looking at a mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison, though the term can be extended to a life sentence without the possibility of parole or release.  See DC Code Section 22-2104. The penalties for a homicide conviction are severe, therefore, it is critical for defendants to contact a DC criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If, however, the prosecutor charges that the crime was a second-degree murder, they do not have to prove premeditation. Instead, they must demonstrate that the accused is guilty of malice. Second-degree murder is a Class A felony in DC. Voluntary manslaughter might apply if the prosecutor can prove that the accused, who acted out a need for self-defense, killed the person in the unreasonable, but good faith belief that deadly force was their only option. Voluntary manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 30 years imprisonment.

 Drug Charges

It is illegal to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance in the District of Columbia. The only exception is if a licensed physician, operating within the realm of their professional practice, prescribed the substance to you. Simple possession of a controlled substance carries a potential jail sentence of 180 days, a fine of $1,000, or both. The potential penalties increase dramatically if you are charged with distributing or possessing with intent to distribute a controlled substance. A conviction on either charge carries a potential maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and/or a fine of $75,000. Reach out to a skilled drug attorney for more information about these laws and how an experienced DC criminal defense lawyer could help build a defense.

Gun Charges

Criminal Lawyer in Washington, DC.There are a number of laws that dictate when and where you are allowed to carry a firearm. One of the most important laws is the one that mandates that you must have a license in order to carry a pistol. If you are found to be carrying a pistol without a license, you could potentially face maximum penalties of five years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. The laws defining what constitutes “carrying” or a “pistol” and what makes a firearm “unregistered” are complex, so you may want to continue on to our gun lawyer page for more information about these laws. If you plan to own a firearm in the District of Columbia, it is important to understand these laws beforehand so that you avoid serious pitfalls. Call a DC criminal defense lawyer today if you have any questions.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Washington, DC can be enforced in a number of ways. You may be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in the District of Columbia if you are found to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of over .08. DWI is a per se offense in DC that is automatically triggered when a driver’s BAC test results come back at 0.08 or above. A first-time DWI or DUI violation could bring a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. The defendant also faces a driver’s license suspension. If you are found to have a BAC of .20 or over, you face a potential mandatory sentence of ten days in jail. The penalties for DUI or DWI, including the mandatory term of imprisonment, increase substantially as your BAC increases and if you have prior convictions for traffic alcohol offenses. A DC DUI lawyer could help explain the law and how it applies to specific situations. You can also be charged and penalized under DC law if you are driving while somehow impaired at a level that does not meet the DWI or DUI standards. Operating While Impaired (OWI) is considered a less serious criminal offense, but the legal standard necessary to sustain a conviction on this charge is much lower. Contact a DC DUI lawyer for more information about these laws and the potential penalties.

Sex Crimes

There are five different levels of sex crimes that you can be charged with under District of Columbia law. When someone has committed a “sexual act” or “sexual contact” and did not have permission to do so, they are looking at a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor offense carries up to 90 days in jail and up to $500 in fines. The most serious offense one can be charged with is first-degree sexual abuse, which includes causing a person to engage in a sexual act with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the person committing the offense, accomplished through the use of force, threatened use of a weapon or use of a threat sufficient to force coercion. Our sex crimes lawyer page has more information about the serious violations you can be charged with under the umbrella of a sexual offense.

Criminal Defense Attorney in Washington, DC

If you are facing a criminal charge, such as a DUI, or believe that you are the target of a criminal investigation in Washington, DC, your freedom is at stake. David Benowitz and his team of DC criminal defense attorneys and DC DUI lawyers are ready to help you. Call (202) 529-9374 to schedule a free consultation with an accomplished DC criminal defense lawyer. If you are looking for information on criminal offenses not listed above, use the below links. If you have been charged in other location such as Fairfax, Rockville, or Montgomery County, consult with an attorney today.

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Finding “The Best DC Criminal Lawyer”

All too often, we are asked who the “best DC criminal lawyer” is. Sometimes, we are asked who “the best DC lawyer” might be. In reality, those labels do not help, because there is no way to apply them to any one attorney. There is no “best DC criminal lawyer.” There are many excellent and qualified attorneys across the District, but in truth, there is no one lawyer who is best suited to every single case. The practice of law is a complicated endeavor, and even within the practice area of criminal law, there are major differences in criminal defense in different local jurisdictions, and between different kinds of cases. For instance, DUI cases and white collar cases involve very different areas of criminal law, types of evidence, and defense strategies. When someone says they are looking for the “best DC criminal lawyer,” we inform them that they should instead be looking for an attorney who they believe is the right lawyer to represent them in a case. When looking for a lawyer for your case, you should look for a DC criminal defense lawyer who has experience practicing criminal law, and it can be very helpful for a lawyer to have experience handling cases involving the charges you are facing. Furthermore, it can also be very important to find an attorney who has local experience practicing in the courts where you are facing your charges. Every case is unique, both in the fact-specific circumstances of the charges and in how the law may apply to the case. Although prior results do not guarantee or predict similar or favorable outcomes in the future, it can be an asset to have an attorney who is knowledgeable about the charges you or a loved may be facing. The most important aspect about selecting an attorney for your case is whether, after speaking to or consulting with a lawyer, you feel that you have found the right advocate to represent you. Rather than trying to look for “the best DC criminal attorney,” look for a DC criminal defense lawyer who you believe is right for your case. This is an important decision, and you should have confidence in the attorney you choose to represent you.

David Benowitz Recognizing Public Servants Scholarship!

David Benowitz is proud to announce the Recognizing Public Servants Scholarship. In order to encourage his passion for public service in others, Benowitz is offering $500 to one student who can best discuss the importance of public servants. If you would like to apply, please visit our scholarship page.

Client Reviews

Title: Lesser charge with no jail time

I was facing second degree murder and 20+ years. Mr. Benowitz represented me. He was there for me, he answered my questions and hung in there. He gave me good advise about choices I had to make in the case. As a result I ended up with a much lesser charge with NO jail time. I am relieved because I would have been sitting in jail for a really long time.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5 / 5 stars