If the bill is approved and signed into law by the mayor, it would eliminate mandatory minimum penalties, allow jury trials for nearly all misdemeanor cases and reduce maximum penalties for crimes such as burglary, auto theft, and robbery. Officials said implementation would be delayed for three years to give courts, police and other groups time to ensure officials are kept abreast of changes.
Committee on Public Safety Chairman Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) described the law as “massive and sequential legislation,” the culmination of 16 years of planning.
“There has never been a comprehensive modernization of our criminal law here in the region,” Allen said. “As a result, our criminal laws are in shambles and are ranked among the worst in the country, in large part because we have never been through a review process like this.”
However, the bill is not entirely without controversy. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), Chief of Police Robert J. Conte III, and US District Attorney Matthew M. Graves said that while they have agreed to most of the planned revisions, others will reduce the tools available to law enforcement and potentially strain an already overburdened court system.
In a statement sent to council members, Graves said he was particularly concerned about the proposed reform that lowers maximum statutory penalties for crimes such as burglary, auto theft and theft. Doing so, Allen noted, would bring the penalties on the books “more in line with the actual sentences rendered each day in court.”
when Kenyan Council member R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) asked whether the US Attorney General’s concerns were resolved, Allen responded: “I don’t think any stakeholder’s final product will reflect all of the concerns, but they have said they believe it should move forward.”
Allen Since 2006, he said, the Criminal Law Reform Commission and its predecessor, the Criminal Law Review Project, have reviewed best practices across the country and within the region to craft modern criminal law.
Jin-Woo Park, Executive Director of the Criminal Law Reform Commission confirmed The current law has created uncertainty for people facing criminal charges.
“This will provide a great deal of clarity and make it much easier for lay people, as well as practitioners, to navigate through the criminal justice system,” Park said.
The bill has received particular support from those who advocate for a criminal justice system that is less focused on imprisonment.
Heather Pinckney, director of the Public Defense Service, said: Press Conference In October, the revised law will be updated and make the city’s criminal laws more understandable. Amy Wittig, executive director of the Sentencing Project, called the vote “a critical step toward equal fairness and justice”.
“We are pleased that the D.C. Council voted today to modernize the criminal justice system,” Vittig said in a statement. “As a final vote takes place later this month, the ruling draft strongly urges Mayor Bowser to join with community leaders, experts and practitioners in support of the RCCA to improve public safety and justice in the capital.”
The bill previously received unanimous support in the five-member Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
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