Protecting Your Rights
At GSW we can help you protect what you care about most. If you’ve been the victim of a government official who has violated your civil rights, GSW can fight to protect you. If you’ve been charged with a crime, GSW can fight to get prove you innocent or get you free. If you’re a student subject to a disciplinary hearing, GSW can fight to keep you in school. If your employer is threatening to revoke your security clearance, GSW can help you keep your clearance and keep your job. If you’re getting a divorce and battling over custody, GSW can help you keep your property and your share of custody.
I. Civil Rights and Employment Discrimination
Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states in part
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
But what do you do if your rights are being violated? You fight!
For the last decade, GSW has protected the civil rights of its clients’ through individual and impact litigation. Whether representing individuals who have been discriminated on the basis of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, or disability in contracts, housing, employment, or public accommodations, the rights of retired law enforcement officers to carry a weapon to protect themselves and families after distinguished serve, or detainees or prisoners from cruel or unusual punishment, GSW protects its client’s rights and achieves success in state and federal courts.
Litigation under Section 1983
Section 1983 (colloquially referred to as “the Klan Act”) was passed in 1868 to enforce the rights of newly freed people through the country. GSW utilizes this powerful statute to combat injustice and provide relief to its clients whose rights have been violated. To bring a successful claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must show that a government official acting “under color of law” violated any of the plaintiff’s rights, privileges, or immunities as secured by the Constitution or federal law. In addition to injunctive relief (the court telling the government to stop violating your rights) and an award of financial compensation, the court can order that the government pay a plaintiff’s attorney fees. This allows GSW to prosecute your case with little or no money down for attorney fees.
In a six-year long battle with the District of Columbia, GSW achieved the nation’s first and only successful appellate court ruling that retired law enforcement officers could enforce their rights under the law enforcement safety act through Section 1983. GSW has represented clients who were illegally detained or denied their constitutional rights while in jail.
Employment Discrimination, Retaliation, or Whistleblower
GSW represents clients who were discriminated or retaliated against on the basis of a protected characteristic in employment, or who blew the whistle on their employer for illegal conduct. Whether under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, Dodd-Frank and many others, it is important to come to GSW at the first sign of trouble because many of these statutes have administrative filing deadlines that are measured in months rather than years. For example, under Title VII, you only have been 180 to 300 days depending on your jurisdiction to report the discrimination. If you fail to meet that deadline, you lose no matter how good of case you have.
While GSW is always ready to litigate, we work hard to resolve your case early when possible to avoid the stress, cost, and uncertainty of litigation when possible.
II. Criminal Defense
Loss of liberty. It’s one of everyone’s deepest fears: being charged with a crime and possibly incarcerated. No matter what the offense, being charged with a crime is a serious matter that can carry hefty financial penalties, and loss of freedom. Whether that charge is a low-level traffic offense or a serious violent felony, an experienced criminal defense attorney will make the difference in your case. Gowen Silva & Winograd (GSW)’s roots lie in criminal defense where two of our partners began their careers, and where we have practiced ever since. That is why GSW has experience in all manner of criminal cases, in all stages of proceedings, in all the state and federal courts in the greater Washington, D.C. area including Maryland and Virginia.
GSW handles everything in the criminal law playbook including all types of legal charges such as:
- Assault and battery
- Burglary and theft
- Child abuse
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
- Financial crimes
- Government contracting investigations
- Homicide and murder
- Internet crimes
- Juvenile offenses
- Moving violations
- Narcotic violations
- National security investigations
- Sex crimes
- Traffic offenses
Everyone deserves to have someone in their corner during a criminal proceedings, at every step of the way. GSW represents clients at every stage of the criminal process including in pre-charging discussions with prosecutions, in witness interviews with the police, in probable cause hearings, at arraignment, in detention hearings, pre-trial, plea negotiations, at trial, at sentencing, and on appeal.
If you’ve been charged with a crime or are under investigation by the police, it’s time to seek the assistance of a skilled and dedicated legal team. We will guide you through the legal process and ensure you receive the best treatment possible under the law.
What should you do if you are approached by the police or federal law enforcement or learn you are under investigation? Politely tell them you wish to speak to a lawyer before you answer any questions. Stop right there, and call GSW immediately. We will quickly develop the best strategy for you, and will be by your side every step of the way. Often times, the most effective representation happens before a case is even charged. If GSW represents you before charges are lodged, we can work most effectively on your behalf to help avoid charges, or to minimize the severity of charges and improve the outcome of your case.
If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, time is essential. From the moment the police arrive, you should be focused on finding legal representation to protect your rights. While the law requires the option of legal representation and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, we’ve all seen stories that reflect poorly on a justice system that is sometimes not fair or just. If you have been charged, politely and resolutely decline to answer any questions until you speak with us.
Our experienced team can help:
- Provide guidance during law enforcement interviews.Even if you are innocent, you should never speak with investigators without an attorney present. Law enforcement can ask confusing, unfair, or even improper questions that can trap you into additional charges. GSW can guide these interviews to protect your rights while helping you understand what’s happening during the investigation.
- Conduct an independent investigation of the facts of the caseand assemble vital information to establish your innocence or lessen the impact of the court proceeding.
- Negotiate with law enforcement and prosecutorsto strike the best deal possible during the investigation, trial, and sentencing. Having skilled negotiators on your side is crucial to protecting the rights of you and your loved ones.
- Provide an aggressive and professional legal defense. We’ve seen our work change the outcomes of numerous criminal court proceedings, lessening the impact and improving the outcomes of these challenging situations.
Criminal charges often trigger collateral consequences related to an employee’s eligibility to hold a security clearance, to student status at a college or university, suitability for government employment or contracts, and even divorce and custody consequences. GSW represents clients in all of these related matters. We know your case and how to best handle any impact on the rest of your life.
Having an experienced lawyer in your corner can make the difference between the success or failure of your defense. Gowen Silva & Winograd will stand beside you at all points during the legal process to ensure your case has the best chance of a positive outcome. When the unthinkable happens and you’ve been charged with a crime, call the Washington DC legal team of GSW. We offer our clients the peace of mind that comes with years of experience in criminal proceedings, and we can help you seek justice.
III. Student Disciplinary Hearings
A special area of legal representation exists for college students charged under an academic code of contact. When this happens, the academic standing and very future of the student is at risk. When students are charged with a criminal or academic code of conduct violation, it can feel as if the institution charged with serving the student has turned its back against them. Student disciplinary codes are often poorly written and arbitrability enforced. There is no “court” that acts as a neutral arbiter. It is the university that writes the code and enforces it. This can make for a confusing, arbitrary, and unfair process. You and your family need an experienced attorney help you navigate the pitfalls because violating the student code of conduct can have serious implications, including:
- University suspension
- Loss of campus or housing rights
- Disciplinary academic probation
- Notations on your student record that could lessen your chances of continuing advanced education
- Expulsion from the institution
- Harm to your reputation
Defending yourself in these situations requires experienced attorneys able to lessen the risk to your current academic standing and future professional reputation.
If you’ve been charged with a violation of college or university codes, contact our office immediately. Do not communicate with the school, campus police, or other students about the situation in any way. We can help protect your rights, guide you in how to manage your communications relating to the code violation, and ensure the best outcome in your case.
Some of the most serious allegations in the student disciplinary context arise out of the regulations governing sexual assault on campus, or Title IX. The Department of Education has recently revised their Title IX guidance. Title IX has specific guidance governing how colleges and universities conduct their disciplinary hearings when a member of the school community accuses another member of sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence or similar conduct. All institutes of higher education must comply with these requirements if they are to receive federal funding. There are several major changes the Department of Education has put in place:
- Colleges and universities will now be required to allow cross-examination of the complaining and responding parties, as well as any witnesses, during a live hearing led by institution officials. Cross-examination will be conducted by advisers for parties, including legal counsel, but not the parties themselves.
- Colleges are only obligated to respond to reports of sexual harassment that occurred off-campus if the location is in use by an officially recognized student or institution organization, such as recognized fraternity or sorority housing or athletic housing.
- Colleges will be able to determine whether to use a “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing” standard as a burden of proof and must use the same standard for all complaints, no matter if they involve student or faculty misconduct.
The Title IX process is dangerous to any student who is accused of violating it and can carry lifelong implications. Our team will represent you at every stage of this process.
IV. Security Clearance Litigation
Many jobs in our area require that the employee hold a security clearance. There are several levels of clearances ranging from a low level “public trust” clearance through a “top secret” security clearance. If you obtain a job that requires a security clearance, you will go through a background investigation. The investigators will want to talk to your family and friends. They will want to see financial records and other personal information. GSW can advise you as you gather records and review them. We know what investigators are looking for, and we know what might need further explanation. We can help you prepare those explanations and prepare for background check interviews.
Obtaining a security clearance isn’t the end of the road. Each and every day you hold a clearance, you are required to maintain it. You can lose your security clearance for a variety of reasons including being charged with a crime, or being delinquent in your credit accounts. Before the government agency that holds your clearance revokes your security clearance, you are entitled to a hearing in front of an administrative judge. Lawyers at GSW have successfully represented people in those hearings and helped them maintain their security clearance, and their job. We know how to gather and present the information that will allow the administrative judge to rule in your favor.
Whether you are trying to obtain a security clearance or are facing a revocation GSW can help guide you the process.
V. Protection Orders
There are times when a relationship with a family member or romantic partner can become complicated. Sometimes, someone will accuse you of taking things too far. They will go to court and ask for a restraining order. In DC and Virginia this is called a protective order. A person in a familial or romantic relationship can get one of these temporary orders by going to a judge without you there. You have a right to a hearing before the order can become permanent. These hearings are not criminal charges, but if an order is entered against you, and you violate that order, then you could be subject to criminal prosecution with all the collateral implications a criminal prosecution can carry. That is why it is vital that you contact a lawyer as soon as you are notified that that someone is seeking a protective order against you. Sometimes the best course of action is negotiate an agreed order, where you admit no fault by agree to keep your distance from the person. Sometimes the best course of action is to fight the accusations. At GSW we have experience and success in these types of cases. We can advise you of which course of action to pursue and then represent you during the process.