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Department of Justice

Matthew M. Graves
United States Attorney

District of Columbia

Patrick Henry Building

601 D Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

November 15, 2022

Council of the District of Columbia

1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Members of the Council of the District of Columbia:

I write to express our support for Councilmember Brooke Pinto’s amendment to the
Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022 (RCCA), which would increase the maximum penalties for
the offenses of Possession of a Firearm by an Unauthorized Person and Carrying a Dangerous
Weapon. This amendment recognizes the need to ensure accountability for dangerous firearms in
our community. Moreover, these increased maximum penalties would better match the maximum
sentences that D.C. Superior Court judges currently impose for these offenses.

As we stated in our full testimony to the Council, individuals convicted of the offense of
Possession of a Firearm by an Unauthorized Person (colloquially known as “FIP”) have not only
carried a firearm, but have also been previously convicted of a felony, intrafamily offense, or crime
of violence. Persons previously convicted of these offenses should not be permitted to carry
firearms, or in a position to threaten or harm another person with them, as they have already
demonstrated that they are willing to engage in violent unlawful conduct. Thus, their subsequent
possession of a firearm is inherently more dangerous, and the RCCA should not reduce the
maximum penalty below the maximum sentences judges currently impose for this offense.

I also encourage you to use this amendment to fix another flaw related to Possession of a
Firearm by an Unauthorized Person: as the offense is currently drafted, there is a massive gap
between what prior convictions under the current D.C. Code would render a defendant an
“unauthorized person” and how those same convictions would be treated under the RCCA. If the
current version of the RCCA is enacted, many—if not most—convictions under the current D.C.
Code would not qualify as predicate convictions, meaning significantly fewer people convicted
of felonies under current law could be later charged with Possession of a Firearm by an
Unauthorized Person under the RCCA. The flaw is that, under the RCCA, a D.C. Code Offense
is treated as a predicate felony only if the D.C. Code Offense has all the same elements as an
RCCA felony. With the massive reorganization occurring under the RCCA, the elements of many
D.C. Code Offense felonies would not match the new versions of those felonies under the RCCA.
For instance, a defendant who has a prior conviction for armed robbery under the current D.C.
Code could not be charged with Possession of a Firearm by an Unauthorized Person based on that
prior conviction, because the elements for robbery will change under the RCCA. 1

Further, I want to reiterate that, while we support an amendment to increase the maximum
penalties for firearms possessory offenses, we continue to maintain that it is equally crucial to
increase maximum penalties for crimes of violence committed by using or displaying firearms so
that the maximum penalties encompass the sentences we see imposed for the most serious versions
of those offenses. In particular, the maximum penalties should be increased for armed robbery and
armed carjacking. While penalties for unlawfully possessing firearms are important, it is crucial
that we adequately penalize those who use firearms in crimes of violence and not reduce the
maximum penalties below sentences that judges currently impose: the very reason that we are so
concerned with illegal firearm possession is that the weapons might later be used in violent
offenses such as robbery and carjacking.

The claims that the deficiencies with the maximum penalties for these weapons offenses
will necessarily be addressed through defendants being charged with multiple crimes under the
RCCA are simply wrong. For instance, the claim that a defendant charged with FIP and Carrying
a Dangerous Weapon would receive consecutive sentences (sentences served back-to-back)—as
opposed to concurrent sentences (sentences served at the same time)—lacks any basis. Such
crimes universally receive concurrent sentences in D.C. Superior Court. As such, when the CCRC
was drafting the RCCA and started making this claim that our objection to these lower penalties
ignored the fact that sentences would run consecutive, we asked them to make this point clear
precisely because it would be such a departure from current law. 2 The CCRC rejected our request,
and made clear that the CCRC did not, in fact, intend to increase reliance on consecutive
sentences. 3 Accordingly, absent express legislative intent to the contrary, concerns about penalties
will not be addressed through consecutive sentencing practice.

We appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Council to address the proliferation of
firearms in our community, and to hold accountable individuals who illegally use or possess
firearms. 4

Notably, similar problems exist with the repeat offender penalty enhancement under the RCCA that will
greatly limit our ability to charge the enhancement. When we raised this concern with the Criminal Code Reform
Commission (CCRC), the CCRC recognized that USAO was correct in characterizing the implications of this
definition, but declined to modify their proposal accordingly. See
Group-Comments-and-Other-Changes-From-Draft-Documents.pdf, at pages 472-73 of the PDF.


Group-Comments-on-Draft-Documents.pdf, at page 546 of the PDF.

of-Advisory-Group-Comments-and-Other-Changes-From-Draft-Documents.pdf, at pages 744-45 of the PDF.
We continue to have a number of other concerns with the proposed legislation, which we set forth in oral
and written testimony. We urge the Council to consider each concern carefully before passing this legislation. See, at pages 82-
145 of the PDF.

Matthew M. Graves
United States Attorney for the District of Columbia

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