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DC Council set to lessen penalties for carjacking and other violent crimes, overriding Mayor Bowser’s veto

The D.C. Council is set to pass sweeping criminal justice reform legislation that will nearly eliminate all mandatory minimum sentences and soften penalties for many violent crimes.

Bowser vetoed the Revised Criminal Code Act earlier this month after the council, which lacks a single Republican member, voted unanimously to adopt it in November. The overhaul of the city’s criminal code includes reduced maximum sentences, the elimination of nearly all mandatory minimum sentences, and expanded rights to jury trials by those accused of misdemeanors.

Criminal justice reform advocates say the bill is necessary to modernize the law, which was written in 1901, and ensure that punishments are proportionate to the crimes being committed.

But opponents have sounded the alarm on provisions that would allow D.C. inmates to ask for early release 20 years into their sentence, even those accused of violent crimes like murder or sexual assault.

Bowser voiced concerns about the reduced penalties provisions of the bill when she vetoed it on Jan. 3.

“Anytime there is a policy that reduces penalties, I think it sends the wrong message,”

– DC Mayor Muriel Bowser

Council members are expected to override Bowser’s veto and send the bill to Congress, where federal lawmakers will have 60 days to review it. Within that period, Congress may enact a joint resolution disapproving the Council’s Act. If President Biden approves the resolution, the act will be prevented from becoming law.

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Written by Aliyah Collins