DC Federal Gun Charge Arraignment & Bond Hearing
Federal gun charges are a serious matter in the District of Columbia because of the very strict gun and weapon restrictions. As a result, the penalties can be harsh and often include a number of consequences including serious jail time. For these reasons, if you are facing gun or weapons charges in Washington, DC, it is vital to have an experienced and dedicated DC federal gun lawyer to help you mitigate charges and minimize the negative impact of these allegations on your private and professional life.
Federal Arraignment Process for Gun and Weapons Charges
Unlike other jurisdictions, in the District of Columbia bond is not used as a common release mechanism. Instead, in the District of Columbia, after being processed at the Central Cell Block, you will likely be brought to an additional hearing before a magistrate or associate judge.
At that time, if you are charged with carrying a pistol without a license, the government can request that there be a three-day hold where you are held for three business days without bond, until you have a detention hearing.
Federal Detention Hearings in DC
At the detention hearing, the government must show that there is probable cause that an offense was committed, that you committed that offense, and that there is a combination of conditions that will assure the safety of the community or your return to court. It is at this hearing where a defense attorney will argue for their client’s release by presenting the reasons they are not a danger to the community and are not likely to flee before the next court date.
There are different arguments that can be made to get release conditions issued, however the specific conditions depends on a variety of different factors. These factors can include personal recognizance or a personal promise to return to court. They could involve a reporting requirement where you have to call in by phone or come in person to the Pretrial Services Agency’s office in the District of Columbia, or in other cases they could involve drug testing and/or wearing an electronic monitor that would be attached to your ankle.
Bond or bail is only used in the District of Columbia when someone is alleged to be a serious risk for flight. At that point, a money bond could be imposed to ensure your appearance at the next court date.
What it Means to be a “Danger to the Public”
In a dangerous analysis, a judge is considering whether you are so dangerous that no combination of conditions could ensure the safety of the community if you’re released from jail.
It depends on the nature and circumstances of the alleged crime. For example, a 50 year-old man is found to have a gun in his home when the home is searched because his grandson is being investigated for doing drugs. Because the man has no prior criminal convictions and works a steady job, he is not likely to be deemed so dangerous that no combination of conditions could assure the safety of the community.
However, in another example, if someone is stopped for a DUI where there is an accident. The Breathalyzer test administered to the driver showed that he had a very high breath alcohol content. He has a prior gun possession conviction, there is a gun found in the car, and he is the only person in the car. That person may be deemed too dangerous to be released.
How Can An Attorney Convince a Judge Someone is Not a Danger to the Public?
An attorney gathers as much beneficial information as possible to make the argument to a judge that their client is not a danger to the public. That may involve obtaining work, school, military, or other records . The attorney may research a client’s prior criminal history in order to show that none exists or if there are prior convictions, that they are unrelated to weapons possession or are too old to be relevant to a judge’s analysis. For example, if a person has a prior possession of cocaine, there is a difference if that conviction is from a year ago or was ten years ago. Does the person have a prior history of drug use? When the gun was found, was that person under the influence of drugs or alcohol? These issues make a difference to a judge.
The attorney may make arguments to a judge about the particular circumstances of a gun possession case. For example, if there are four people in the car and the attorney’s client is driving the car and the gun is found underneath the passenger’s seat, the attorney may well argue to the judge that the case against their client is very weak, and that therefore the client should be released because a conviction is unlikely. A thorough lawyer presents options to a judge. If the judge is not going to release the person on personal recognizance, the lawyer may propose an alternative option to include electronic monitoring, with a curfew, or house arrest where the person does not leave the house except for work, medical reasons, or to consult with their attorney.
There is a lot of information the attorney can present to a judge and make creative arguments in an effort to get their client out of jail.
What It Means to be a “Flight Risk”
In the District of Columbia, when a person is alleged to be a serious risk of flight, there may be conditions or a combination of conditions that assure the person will appear in court.
The lawyer gathers information to determine if there are prior convictions for failing to appear, determines how old those convictions are and what was involved. For example, if the person had a drug problem that contributed to their unreliability, and if that problem is now under control because of participation in a drug treatment program, that argument can be made to a judge.
If there is property or money that may be put up as collateral, the attorney can make that argument. Intensive monitoring programs such as the High Intensity Supervision Program can also be proposed as a condition of release.
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