U.S. Attorney’s Statement Regarding Proposed Changes to Crime Measures
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Columbia
WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves released the following statement on the package of bills and initiatives—known as the “Secure DC Plan”—proposed by D.C. Councilmember Brooke Pinto. The plan includes the Addressing Crime through Targeted Interventions and Violence Enforcement (ACTIVE) Amendment Act of 2023.
“I am glad Councilmember Pinto introduced these bills, and I support her plan to improve public safety in the District. These provisions will better enable our office to prosecute cases that are harming our communities and fill legal gaps that will make our residents safer.”
U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves provides the following additional statement:
This legislation includes a number of common-sense fixes, such as making clear that being shot is a severe assault that should be treated as the serious bodily injury that it is, and making clear that whether an armed gunman takes your car from you, or forcefully takes your keys from you to steal your car, it is all carjacking.
As the community begins to consider this important package, I have noted that the provisions addressing how we better protect our community from gun offenders and those charged with gun offenses who remain in the community have already garnered much attention. Before discussing those provisions, I want to explain how our system currently operates. In the District, people charged with illegally possessing a firearm are typically released pending trial—even when they have previously been convicted of a felony. While there is a presumption in the D.C. Code that these individuals will be detained pending trial due to the inherent dangerousness of firearms offenses, most are released.
Moreover, a majority of the people convicted of carrying a pistol without a license in the District are sentenced to a period of probation, which is permitted under the D.C. Sentencing Guidelines. Put simply, the typical result of a prosecution for illegally carrying a firearm is that the person charged will be in the community pending the resolution of his or her case and, if convicted of carrying a pistol without a license, will be sentenced to a period of probation. Our criminal justice system needs to reflect the reality that many individuals found with guns are being released back into our community after having served little to no time in jail.
This legislation, if enacted, will be narrowly tailored to work to stop people who are given the opportunity to remain in the community despite having been convicted of gun offenses, or people given the opportunity to be released pending trial—notwithstanding a presumption of pretrial detention—from re-arming themselves while they are under supervision.
This will allow law enforcement to search a limited category of people for—among other things—guns that they are carrying in public places in violation of their conditions of release. This provision recognizes that swift and certain apprehension is an effective deterrent to criminal activity, and draws from research from the U.S. Sentencing Commission showing that people convicted of gun offenses have higher rates of recidivism.
We have reviewed similar legislation from California and other states, and the court decisions affirming their constitutionality, including decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court. Based on judicial precedent, we are confident that the legislation complies with the Fourth Amendment, and if this legislation is enacted, we are prepared to defend the statute’s constitutionality in court.
Updated September 20, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-566