Legislative Update: The "Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021" (DC Council)
This Thursday, the D.C. Council's Judiciary & Public Safety Committee will hold a public hearing on B24-0416, the "Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021" (RCCA). If enacted, this legislation would modernize most of the District's current criminal offices and would be the first comprehensive revision of the District's criminal code since 1901.
In Councilmember Mendelson's letter of support for the RCCA, he explains why modernizing the District's criminal code is overdue. He notes that many existing statutes in the District use outdated and unclear language, fail to state all the elements that establish liability, or use inconsistent definitions and terminology. He states that many of the penalties authorized in the current code "do not reflect the seriousness of the underlying conduct because of overlap and gaps in how crimes are defined, failures to distinguish between variations in how an offense is committed or its resulting harm, and changing norms about the relative severity of offenses and the use of incarceration penalties."
Councilmember Mendelson would address these through the RCCA by revising the elements of the D.C. Code that:
Determine criminal liability;
Establish defenses and exceptions to liability for crimes;
Create a uniform, proportionate classification system for penalties;
Codify general definitions and other legal requirements applicable to all revised offenses.
The RCCA would create a new title in the D.C. Code that would amend criminal statutes in other District titles. The RCCA would amend the code for crimes accounting for over 97% of all adult convictions if enacted. It should be noted that this bill does not address law enforcement practices, court case processing practices, or evidentiary rules.
The RCCA, if enacted as drafted, would:
Enact a new Title 22A of the District of Columbia Code, "Revised Criminal Code," and to repeal the corresponding organic legislation in the current Title 22;
Amend the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 to revise the current unauthorized possession of a firearm or destructive device offense, the current unauthorized possession of ammunition offense, the current possession of a stun gun offense, and the current unlawful storage of a firearm offense; repeal the current possession of self-defense spray offense; codify a new carrying an air or spring gun offense; and codify a new carrying a pistol in an unlawful manner offense;
Amend Title 16 of the District of Columbia Official Code to revise the jury demandability statute, the criminal contempt for violation of a civil protection order statute, and the parental kidnapping statutes;
Amend Title 23 of the District of Columbia Official Code to revise the failure to appear after release on citation or bench warrant bond offense, the failure to appear in violation of a court order offense, and the criminal contempt for violation of a release condition offense;
Amend the District of Columbia Work Release Act to revise the violation of work release offense;
Amend An Act to Establish a Board of Indeterminate Sentence and Parole for the District of Columbia and to determine its functions, and for other purposes, to revise authorized terms of supervised release for all crimes and repeal imprisonment terms for select crimes addressed elsewhere;
Amend section 25-1001 of the District of Columbia Official Code to revise the possession of an open container of alcohol offense;
Amend An Act To establish a code of law for the District of Columbia to abolish common law criminal offenses;
Amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to revise various drug offenses;
Amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to repeal and revise various drug paraphernalia offenses;
Repeal archaic criminal offenses in the District of Columbia Code; and
Make other technical and conforming changes to statutes in the current District of Columbia Code.
Councilmember Mendelson introduced this legislation at the request of the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC), an independent agency in the District of Columbia government. Their mission is to develop comprehensive criminal code reform recommendations for the D.C. Council and Mayor. The RCCA is the result of five years of work by the CCRC and earlier work of the D.C. Sentencing and Criminal Code Reform Commission.
There are two scheduled public hearings for this bill. One this Thursday, December 2nd, from 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. The second hearing will be Thursday, December 16th, from 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Information on how-to video the hearing or how to submit testimony for the December 16th hearing can be found in the link above.