DC Passes Revised Penal Code

The Washington DC City Council has unanimously passed a bill rewriting the district’s 100-year-old criminal code, as reported by Matt Pusatory and Jess Arnold of CBS News.  Supporters said that the change was “long overdue.”  Among the revisions will be the elimination of mandatory minimum sentences and enactment of early sentence review, for offenders sentenced under previous law.  The bill would also reclassify all crimes, for example; distinguishing robbery from armed robbery.  It also gives the right to a jury trial to misdemeanor defendants.  This would overwhelm the district’s court system, putting pressure on prosecutors and judges to plea bargain.  Commenting on the elimination of mandatory minimums, Councilmember Charles Allen, the head of panel which adopted the bill said, “In regards to mandatory minimums….they frequently just tie the hands of judges and juries, and treat all victims as if they were the same.”  Apparently Mr. Allen believes that convicted criminals are victims.  It is not clear that DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has been criticized for DC’s 18-year high in homicides and other violent crimes, will sign a bill reducing sentences.  The problem Bowser faces was highlighted hours before the bill passed last Tuesday, as ex-con Kelvin Blowe, who advocated for the shorter sentences, was fatally shot on his way home from work, as reported by Fox News.