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Summary of the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021 (RCCA) (Nov. 4 Hearing Video)

The November 4th, 2021 hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety of the Washington, DC Council was the first of three virtual hearings on the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021 (RCCA). Invited panelists included a diverse group of local and national subject matter experts, including individuals with lived experience in the criminal justice system, academics, researchers, and policy experts.

As described in the Executive Director's testimony, the goal of the RCCA is to address factors such as clarity, consistency, completeness, organization, and proportionality in the District’s criminal sentencing. The RCCA would comprehensively modernize most District criminal offenses currently in use. The bill adopts the basic structure of the Model Penal Code that most U.S. jurisdictions have followed for decades, and reforms offense elements, gradations, and penalties. If enacted into law, the RCCA will be the first comprehensive revision of the DC Code since Congress codified District criminal statutes in 1901. The RCCA recommendations are based not only on current District statutory and case law, but also on a review of model legislation and other jurisdictions’ best practices, research into relevant social science literature, and analysis of relevant District criminal justice data. The legislation is the culmination of five years of work by the CCRC, developed in consultation with a statutorily-designated Advisory Group. See below for further information on the development of the CCRC recommendations and background materials.

Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021 (RCCA)

On October 1, 2021 the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC) submitted to the D.C. Council the “Revised Criminal Code Act of 2021” (RCCA). The RCCA presents, in bill form, the statutory language from the CCRC recommendations submitted on March 31, 2021, described below. Only non-substantive changes listed here to numbering, formatting, drafting, and citations were made, in consultation with the Council’s Office of General Counsel. A table comparing the numbering of provisions in the RCCA to the corresponding numbering of provisions in the March 31, 2021 RCC recommendations is available here.

March 31, 2021 Recommendations

On March 31, 2021 the Criminal Code Reform Commission (CCRC) submitted the below comprehensive recommendations to modernize District of Columbia criminal offenses and penalties to Mayor Muriel Bowser and the D.C. Council. The recommendations cover most crimes currently prosecuted in the District and provide new language and penalties to improve the statutes’ clarity, consistency, completeness, and proportionality.

The CCRC recommendations are non-binding and would require legislative action to become law. If adopted into law, the recommendations will be the first comprehensive revision since Congress originally codified District criminal statutes in 1901.

The CCRC recommendations were developed over four years through an exhaustive study of current criminal law and practice in the District and examination of how to better align local statutes with best practices. The CCRC staff worked with a statutorily-designated Advisory Group of seven stakeholders. Advisory Group members reviewed CCRC proposals and provided feedback and insight that informed the development of these recommendations. On March 24, 2021 the five voting members of the Advisory Group voted unanimously to approve the CCRC’s submission of its recommendations (and supporting materials) to the Council and Mayor.

The CCRC recommendations do not address law enforcement practices, court procedures, or evidentiary rules. In the future the CCRC expects to provide additional recommendations and analysis of best practices and possible reforms to other aspects of District criminal statutes.

On June 16-17, 2021, the Commission hosted a two-day online symposium about The Roots of the DC Criminal Code (Panel 1), the CCRC Reform Recommendations (Panel 2), and The CCRC Recommendations & Future Criminal Justice Reform (Panel 3). The symposium featured Professor James Forman Jr., Pulitzer prize-winning author of Locking Up Our Own, and numerous other experts and leaders on D.C. criminal law and criminal law reforms (bios here).

CCRC Executive Director Transmittal Letter to the Mayor and Council (March 31, 2021).


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