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Bills Awaiting Action by the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

View the list of the bills awaiting action by the committee on the judiciary and public safety.

Removes criminal penalties for vending without a license.

 

Solution Overview

Consistent with recommendations made by D.C.’s Police Reform Commission, Criminal Code Reform Commission, and Task Force on Jails & Justice, the criminal penalties for vending without a license must be repealed. Doing so will make District residents safer by reducing unnecessary confrontations between police and civilians who are simply trying to earn a living. Paired with the Sidewalk Vending Zones Amendment Act, which establishes licensing rules for vendors, the bill provides Black and Brown people safe and sustainable opportunities to build small businesses without fear of arrest or harassment by the police. More than 75% of the people convicted of vending without a license between 2010 and 2019 were Black.

 

Status: Introduced on January 28, 2021

Hearing scheduled for November 16, 2022.

Establishes a fund and a taskforce to study reparations proposals for African Americans whose ancestors suffered due to slavery.

 

Solution Overview 

The District must begin the conversation about redress for compounding harms it has perpetrated against Black Washingtonians. From enslavement to Jim Crow to mass incarceration, the District has repeatedly undermined the freedom, stability, and progress of its Black residents. The Metropolitan Police Department arrests Black people at a per-capita rate seven times higher and kills Black people at a rate 13 times higher than White people. The vast Black-White wealth gap is yet another manifestation of D.C.’s history of racial injustice. In D.C., the median White household wealth is 81 times that of Black households and it has the widest wage gap for Black women. It is time for reparative solutions. This bill will establish a task force to study and develop reparations proposals for Black residents in the District. 



Status: Introduced on January 28, 2021

No hearing scheduled

Fully overhauls the current record sealing code to simplify its provisions, make some sealing and expungement automatic, expand eligibility, and shorten waiting periods.

 

Solution Overview 

Criminal records make it difficult for residents to access public services, secure housing, and find gainful employment. These challenges increase the risk of recidivism. Record sealing and expungement could mitigate that risk. However, D.C. has one of the most confusing and restrictive laws in the country. The process for sealing misdemeanor records involves significantly longer wait periods than the majority of states. As a result, one in seven people in Washington has a publicly available criminal record and many are for arrests that resulted in a dismissal or acquittal. Black people, already seven times as likely as White residents to be unemployed, make up 91 percent of people incarcerated and 86 percent of people arrested in D.C. 

 

By simplifying the expungement and record sealing processes, expanding eligibility, and shortening wait times, the RESTORE Act will improve public safety by giving people access to the opportunities they need, especially employment. 



Status: Introduced on April 1, 2021

No hearing scheduled (discussed at length April 8, 2021)

Prohibits police officers from engaging in car chases, unless it is necessary to prevent an imminent death or serious bodily injury and is not likely to put others in danger.

 

Solution Overview

Consistent with recommendations made by the D.C. Police Reform Commission, the Council must strictly limit vehicle pursuits. Although MPD’s current policy limits these tactics, its members do not follow the policy and have killed several people in recent years. 

 

This bill would prohibit law enforcement officers from engaging in car chases unless the officer reasonably—not subjectively—believes that (1) it is necessary to protect someone from death or serious injury and (2) it will not endanger others. It would also ban certain conduct that is dangerous under all circumstances.



Status: Introduced on April 19, 2021 

Hearing on May 20, 2021 

Awaiting action from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Increases protections for children during police interrogation and searches.

 

Solution Overview

Consistent with recommendations by the D.C. Police Reform Commission and other jurisdictions, children must have an opportunity to consult with counsel before police interrogations. Obtaining a child’s “consent” to a search or interrogation without a lawyer really isn’t consent at all. Children are more easily pressured and are two to three times more likely 1,2 to falsely confess than adults. The District must do more to protect their legal rights. In Dr. Shameka Stanford’s study of justice-involved children in D.C., 85% of participants had learning disabilities and 90% of participants could not define 70% of the words used in Miranda warnings. 

 

Almost all of the children in D.C.’s juvenile and adult criminal legal systems are Black and Black children more likely to encounter law enforcement and learn early on to fear and comply – sometimes to their detriment



Status: Introduced on June 14, 2021 

Hearing held on October 21, 2021 

Awaiting action from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Requires a hearing in front of a judge before a child can be charged as an adult.

 

Solution Overview

The last 25 years of improving brain science has taught us that the human brain does not fully develop until our mid-twenties.1,2 However, current law allows D.C.’s unelected prosecutors to treat children as adults for certain crimes, without a hearing before a judge. Prosecutors are 18 times more likely to treat Black children as adults than White children. The District should treat all children in a developmentally appropriate manner. This bill would not prohibit charging children as adults, but would strengthen due process, by requiring a judge first consider individualized information about each child. 



Status: Introduced on June 30, 2021 

Hearing held on October 07, 2021 

Awaiting action from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Strengthens independent oversight of police in the District and improves transparency by making disciplinary records public.

 

Solution Overview

Members of the Metropolitan Police Department, DC Housing Authority Police Department, and Special Police Officers operate with minimal and inconsistent oversight. 1,2,3 Without independent monitoring and reliable accountability measures, the public remains at risk of repeated injury and abuses without recourse. Among other provisions, this bill expands the authority of the Office of Police Complaints, requires broader community representation on the Police Complaints Board, and creates a public database of officers’ disciplinary records. Creating opportunities for real, independent, community oversight and heeding public calls for transparency is essential to improving transparency and reducing harm. 



Status: Introduced on July 12, 2021 

Hearing held October 21, 2021 

Awaiting action from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

A comprehensive rewrite of the District’s criminal offenses and penalties.

 

Solution Overview

Comprehensive reform of the District’s current substantive criminal statutes—the laws that establish the scope of criminal conduct and authorize penalties—is long overdue. Amended and augmented by different legislative bodies over time, the District’s criminal statutes today vary widely in their clarity, completeness, consistency, and proportionality. Many existing statutes use outdated and unclear language, fail to state all the elements that establish liability, or use inconsistent definitions and terminology. The authorized penalties for many District crimes often do not reflect the seriousness of the underlying conduct because of overlap and gaps in how crimes are defined, failures to distinguish between variations in how an offense is committed or its resulting harm, and changing norms about the relative severity of offenses and the use of incarceration penalties. 

 

Status: Introduced on October 01, 2021 

Hearings held November 04, 2021, December 02, 2021, December 16, 2021 

Awaiting action from the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Ban torture through prolonged isolation and confinement in D.C.’s jails.

 

Solution Overview

The D.C. Council must immediately ban solitary confinement. The United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for Prisoners defines 15 days in prolonged isolation (23 hours a day) as torture. After 14 days of prolonged isolation, over one-third of people became psychotic or suicidal. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) instituted one of the longest medical lockdowns in the nation. For close to 500 days, the DOC kept people in their cells for 22-23 hours a day. Rather than curb the spread of the virus, in 2020, the conditions of incarceration caused 526.9 additional COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, the highest number of additional cases linked to mass incarceration in the U.S.

 

The ERASE Act will ban all forms of solitary confinement used by the DOC, including safe cells and transgender confinement.



Status: Introduced on July 14, 2022