GLAA testifies on Criminal Code Reform Commission Establishment Act
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Bill 16-0172

D.C. Council

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GLAA testifies on Criminal Code Reform Commission Establishment Act

Fighting for Equal Rights Since 1971
P. O. Box 75265
Washington, D.C. 20013

Testimony before the D.C. Council Committee on the Judiciary

"Criminal Code Reform Commission Establishment Act of 2005", B16-0172

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Chairperson Mendelson, Members of the Committee, and Fellow Citizens:

My name is Bob Summersgill. I am the Treasurer of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington (GLAA), the nation's oldest continuously active gay and lesbian rights organization.

GLAA strongly supports this legislation and we thank Councilmember Patterson for introducing it and Councilmember Ambrose for cosponsoring it.

Over the course of many years, laws are changed little by little by many different people in many different ways. Many of the criminal statutes' penalties are disproportionate to the crime and disparate from penalties of similar crimes. The inconsistencies in the criminal code impede fair and equitable administration of the law. Old monetary fees lose their deterrent value to inflation. Language becomes outdated and irrelevant. Laws that once seemed reasonable become quaint or grist for humor columns in newspapers.

Councilmember Patterson has introduced a series of bills to repeal outdated sections of criminal code over the past several years. These have been very positive steps, but the time has come for an overhaul to create a uniform and coherent body of criminal law in the District of Columbia.

Bill 13-130, "Criminal Code Modernization Amendment Act of 2005," removes the penalties for crimes in the common law. The commission created by this bill would "identify crimes and terms defined in common law for codification, and propose recommended language for codification." The combination of the two bills eliminates the inaccessible and arbitrarily enforced crimes of the common law. However, if there are crimes that are important to penalize, we should figure out what they are and codify them.

Further, as I discuss in today's testimony on B16-0247, the Omnibus Public Safety Act of 2005, the definitions of child, minor, and adult vary from section to section. This Commission should seek to standardize those definitions throughout the code.

The citizens deserve to have an easily referenced code of laws, without hidden and unwritten laws of which we may run afoul.

GLAA would be very happy to help the commission in any way we can, including serving on the commission, to create a logical and consistent criminal code.

I am available to answer any questions that you may have.

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