On Tuesday, the Council of the District of Columbia moved to override a veto by Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser that prevented a bill aimed at reducing penalties for violent offenders, the Revised Criminal Code Act, from becoming law.
According to local news, "In a 12-1 vote — with Ward 8 Council member Trayon White voting in opposition — the council moved to override Bowser’s veto of the Revised Criminal Code Act. Essentially, the city’s code determines what punishments to assign to crimes, including sentence lengths, and also classifies what types of crimes are misdemeanors. The code sets guidelines that the police, attorneys, courts, and prisons all work from."
On January 3, Bowser vetoed the bill and, according to Fox News, Bowser said, "Anytime there is a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message."
The law eliminates mandatory minimum sentencing, reduces maximum sentences for offenders, and gives those accused of misdemeanors the right to a jury trial. Another change would allow those convicted of violent crimes like murder and rape to ask for early release 20 years into their sentence. Washington, DC has seen carjacking crime soar since 2020 but the new bill would soften carjacking punishments.
The bill would overhaul the city's criminal code that was written in 1901 and received a unanimous vote of approval by DC's all-Democrat council in November of last year.
DC Attorney General Brian Schwalb tweeted "The Revised Criminal Code Act is the product of more than a decade of research, compromise, and public input. Given our principal mission of improving public safety and the fair administration of justice, OAG has been engaged since day one on these reform efforts."
"Reforms to DC’s 122-year-old criminal code—passed before women and Black residents enjoyed fundamental rights—are sorely needed. This bill will improve public safety and provide long overdue clarity and fairness in our justice system. RCCA should be the law of the District," Schwalb added.
After Bowser's veto, On January 10, Councilmember Brooke Pinto tweeted, "Today, @CMCharlesAllen and I are moving to override the Mayor’s veto of the Revised Criminal Code Act. The veto threatens to unravel years of work and thorough study that has culminated in a criminal code that is more just, equitable, & clear -- making us all safer."
Councilmember Matt Frumin tweeted, "I will vote to override the Mayor's veto of the Revised Criminal Code Act. The RCCA modernizes our criminal code, making it more transparent and equitable, and will promote public safety."
The law now heads to Congress and federal legislatures will decide whether the bill will become law.
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