Respect the District's autonomy
ACLU of the District of Columbia's logo <[link removed]>
Today, the House of Representatives voted to strike down two bills that have already passed the D.C. Council, including the overhaul of our criminal code. As the ACLU-D.C.'s new Policy Director, I issued this statement <[link removed]> urging Congress to respect the District of Columbia's decision to pass the Revised Criminal Code Act (RCCA) and to vote no on any resolution or rider that undermines the ability of District residents to make our laws and manage our tax dollars.
Opponents of the RCCA have spread misinformation about the bill, and outlets like Slate <[link removed]> and DCist <[link removed]> have tried to correct the record. Here are some reasons why it's critical that the RCCA becomes law.
D.C. needed this update because our outdated code has not been systematically revised since 1901.
As the D.C. Council has documented in detail, our current criminal code, which has not undergone systematic review since originally codified in 1901, suffers from unclear provisions, overlapping or outdated offenses, and inconsistent approaches to penalties. These structural problems have caused judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys to spend countless hours litigating the meaning of our criminal laws and undermined the civil rights and liberties of all District residents.
The District followed an extensive public process led by an independent, non-partisan Commission to revise our criminal code.
The Commission considered a range of data, including model legislation, criminal statutes in other jurisdictions, and D.C. sentencing practices under current law. The Commission also drew on the expertise of an Advisory Group of legal experts, including representatives of the offices of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia.
District residents and leaders overwhelmingly support revising our criminal code.
The D.C. Council voted overwhelmingly to pass the RCCA, and 83% of District voters support revising our criminal code.
District residents deserve the right to make our laws and manage our tax dollars. That's why, in addition to respecting the District's home rule on the RCCA, Congress must grant District residents statehood. Like people all across this country, our families and neighbors need the autonomy to govern ourselves. Learn more about D.C. statehood at DCStatehoodNow.org <[link removed]>.
Policy Director, ACLU of the District of Columbia