The D.C. Council unanimously passed a bill on Tuesday that would overhaul the city’s criminal code for the first time in more than 100 years.
The council sent the bill to Mayor Muriel Bowser to sign into law.
The Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 and its revisions have been shaped by the D.C. Criminal Code Reform Commission. It has been through numerous public hearings, but parts of the measure are opposed by Bowser and police Chief Robert Contee.
The bill’s principal sponsor, Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen, who also chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety, said the measure is meant to modernize the criminal code that went into effect in 1901.
Some of the most important facets of the proposal includes a new system of penalties for all crimes, as well as enhanced penalties for carjacking, robbery and burglary.
“Today, we have the opportunity to take a monumental step toward a much improved criminal code. One that is more fair, more clear, more proportionate and just as effective at both holding people who do harm and keeping our city safe,” Allen said.
Bowser and Contee expressed concerns with the bill in October, specifically on decreasing penalties for gun crimes and a provision that would expand the right to demand a jury trial by defendants facing any charge that comes with a penalty of jail time. They also believed that the measure could further tax an already overburdened court system.
Before passing the bill 13 to 0, the council beat back an amendment that would increase penalties for gun crimes.
“We can argue about it all day and it really doesn’t make a difference in terms of reducing gun violence,” Council President Phil Mendelson said. “Politicians often propose longer sentences to fight crime and it’s the wrong approach.”