Chris graduated from Falls Church High School in 1988, Georgetown University in 1992, and William and Mary law School in 1996. He also attended the George Washington University Master's Program in Forensic Science from 2001-2003. During law school, Chris concentrated in criminal defense by working as an investigator at the D.C. Public Defender Service. He also clerked at the Public Defender's Office in Bellingham, Washington in the summer of 1995, where he won his first jury trial under a Washington State Supreme Court rule, which allows law students meeting certain qualifications to try cases.
After passing the bar exam, Chris joined the Alexandria Public Defender's Office, where he spent two years handling the traffic docket, mostly consisting of Driving While Intoxicated and other serious traffic offenses. He later became a Senior Assistant Public Defender, and for three years defended serious felony cases including murder, rape, child sexual abuse, and all varieties of serious drug offenses.
In 2002, Chris left the Alexandria Public Defender's Office and formed his own law firm with Andrea L. Moseley (now a partner at Zwerling, Moseley and Sears, P.C.). In 2005, Leibig, Moseley, and Bennett merged with the nationally known Law Offices of John Kenneth Zwerling to form Zwerling, Leibig, and Moseley, P.C. In private practice, Chris has represented hundreds of individuals charged with serious felonies, including murder cases in Washington, D.C., Alexandria City, Fairfax County, Orange County, and Stafford County. He has also represented dozens of clients for serious sex offenses including rape, child sexual abuse, child pornography, and internet solicitation of a minor. Because Zwerling, Leibig, and Moseley, P.C. (now Zwerling, Moseley and Sears, P.C.) is a uniquely situated law firm with a broad client base, Chris' practice has focused both on serious state court felonies and federal and white collar offenses, including drug conspiracies, money laundering, gambling and racketeering pursuant to the RICO Statute, import/export fraud, and money structuring.
Chris has received various recognitions and awards, including being named by Washingtonian Magazine as one of the top criminal lawyers in the D.C. area in 2011. He is regularly named as one of the area's top criminal lawyers by the Super Lawyers edition of Law and Politics Magazine, one of the few attorneys to be so named both in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Chris has also published legal articles in various local and national magazines, including the Huffington Post, Bloomberg.com, and Forbes.com. He has appeared regularly as a legal commentator in various media outlets, including the Washington Post, the Washington Examiner, Fox News (local and national), Fox.com, Inside Edition, CNN, Sports Illustrated, the New York Post, the Atlanta Constitution, and others. See In the Press page.
Unique Legal Experience
Chris studied Forensic DNA typing at the George Washington University School of Forensic Science Master's program with students aspiring to a career as DNA scientists. Many of the DNA scientists at the Northern Virginia Department of Forensic Science attended the same program. Chris has litigated the admissibility, reliability, and meaning of DNA in many cases, including: Commonwealth v. Butler (2000), where the Court excluded the government's DNA evidence from trial in a rape case; Commonwealth v. Rogers (2006), where DNA evidence in a death penalty case bore on the critical question of time of death; and, Commonwealth v. Samuel Manns (2002), where anomalies in the DNA evidence resulted in a finding of attempted rape instead of rape.
Forensic Psychiatry and Profiling
Chris studied Forensic Psychiatry at G.W. with students aspiring to a career in forensic profiling. He has handled many cases where a defendant's mental health history and difficulties played a substantial role in resolving the case with a positive result. Recently, he has handled three cases which highlighted the widespread problem that individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, like Asperger's Syndrome, more often than others fall victim to police sting operations involving child pornography or internet solicitation. In 2012, he is scheduled to present a legal education program in Las Vegas for the National Child Abuse Defense Resource Center about defending people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in sex offense cases.
Warrant-less GPS Tracking and Use of Cell-Site Evidence at Trial
In 2008, Chris challenged the use by police of warrant-less GPS tracking, the first such challenge reported in Virginia. The case, Commonwealth v. Foltz, is pendind before the Virginia Supreme Court while the United States Supreme Court decides the case of United States v. Antoine Jones, which will decide the future of the law on warrantless GPS tracking. While litigating the Foltz case, Chris conducted a state-wide project involving more than three hundred law enforcement departments to determine the scope of warrant-less GPS tracking in Virginia. The American Civil Liberties Union relied on the Virginia GPS tracking project in briefing the case of United States v. Antoine Jones in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2009.
Chris also litigated, in the death penalty context and otherwise, the admissibility and interpretation of cell-site tracking. As police increasingly use cell-site information to prove an individual's whereabouts in criminal prosecutions, creative defense attorneys have challenged such evidence both on privacy grounds (as with GPS tracking) and on the grounds that cell-site tracking is an imprecise, and at times even irresponsible tool to use for proving the actual location of a person at a given time.
In 2011, Chris spoke at the Virginia Public Defender Conference in Richmond about challenging cell-site evidence. Beginning in 2012, Chris will regularly conduct legal training courses for defense attorneys throughout Virginia in conjunction with a nationally recognized group of forensic experts.
The Ambien Defense
Chris has handled various cases, including a murder case in 2011, that raised the issue of "sleep-driving" — the very real phenomenon where users of sleep aids like Ambien engage in complex conduct while sleep-walking — often resulting in serious traffic offenses, or worse. He has also written on the topic, and has been consulted by lawyers across the country about how to present a defense based on Ambien induced sleep-walking.
Juveniles Tried as Adults
Chris has extensive experience representing teenagers charged with serious offenses where the Commonwealth seeks to transfer the juvenile to Circuit Court for adult punishment. He has represented young people for Murder, Rape, Robbery, malicious wounding, attempted murder, gang activities, child sexual abuse, serious drug offenses and other charges.
In 2003, he has raised a constitutional challenge to Virginia's "automatic transfer" provision on the grounds that the automatic transfer of teenagers to adult Court deprives them of the right to argue important mitigating factors, such as child abuse, learning disabilities, and immaturity. He has successfully argued numerous times that a teenager, even if convicted of a serious offense, simply does not belong in an adult prison.
Beginning in 2012, in conjunction with the nationally recognized forensic group Guardian Digital Forensics, Chris will regularly conduct legal training courses for defense attorneys throughout Virginia about technological forensics.
In 2010, Chris became an expert consultant to International Bridges of Justice (IBJ), an international non-profit organization devoted to training public defenders in the developing world. As such, he has authored and edited training materials for indigent defense counsel training programs in developing countries. Most recently, he authored materials on Motions to Suppress Evidence in the United States pursuant to the American Bill of Rights, and how such concepts could relate to proceedings in nations without a developed Bill of Rights. Among many other endeavors, IBJ conducts training courses for lawyers who will represent indigent defendants in China, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Burundi.
Chris was an Instructor of Legal Rhetoric at American University Law School in 2002-2003, and he has lectured criminal law seminars regularly since 2001 at George Washington University Law School.
From 2009 to the present, Chris has regularly taught Continuing Legal Education courses, along with colleague Joseph King from King, Campbell, Poretz on defense of Driving While Intoxicated cases. In 2011, he taught a course on challenging police investigations to attendees of the Statewide Public Defender Conference. In 2012, he is scheduled to speak to lawyers in Las Vegas about autism disorders in sex offense cases, and to law students in Stirling University in Scotland about the American death penalty.
Defense of Drug Cases
Chris has represented hundreds of clients charged with drug offenses, and appeared regularly in state and federal courts on these matters. He is a member of the Legal Committee for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and on the Board of Directors for the Virginia chapter of that organization. In 2007, Chris handled the first so-called "marijuana kingpin" case in Virginia history. The Virginia Drug Kingpin statute, Va. Code 18.2-248 (H)(2), carries a mandatory life sentence for a defendant who is the leader or organizer of a drug operation of a certain size. After nearly two years of litigation, the defendant in that case was sentenced to less than three years to serve. Chris has also written published articles and spoken to groups about defense of marijuana and other drug cases. See In the Press page.
Defense of Law Enforcement Officers
In 2011, Chris was selected by the National Legal Defense Fund - a national fund created for the legal defense of police officers – as the Fund's lawyer for Alexandria City. He is on call, along with Joseph King from King, Campbell, and Poretz, and Joni C. Robin to represent Alexandria members of the International Union of Police who need legal representation for events occurring while on duty.