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“Mayor Bowser signed legislation that makes it a criminal offense for persons on probation or parole to tamper with GPS monitoring devices”

by Prince Of Petworth January 4, 2017 at 3:30 pm 28 Comments

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Photo by PoPville flickr user andy ward

From the Mayor’s Office:

“Today, Mayor Bowser signed legislation that makes it a criminal offense for persons on probation or parole to tamper with GPS monitoring devices. The legislation – which she proposed and that is part of the Mayor’s Safer Stronger DC initiative – closes a critical loophole that allowed individuals on supervised release who were ordered to wear electronic monitoring devices to go unpunished after removing, disabling, or tampering with the device.

Under the new law, any agency that can order a person on supervised release to wear a GPS monitoring device, such as the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency, the Pretrial Services Agency, and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services, can enforce attempts at tampering with the device. Individuals found guilty of tampering with their GPS monitoring devices can face up to six months in jail.

“Last year, the District of Columbia saw significant decreases in the numbers of homicides, burglaries and robberies. Violent and property crimes are down in our first two years in office, but we can and must do better,” said Mayor Bowser. “This legislation is a strong step to remedy a critical shortcoming in our criminal justice system. In 2017, we will continue to use all available tools to create a safer, stronger DC. Our residents and visitors deserve nothing less.”

GPS monitoring devices are a significant tool in monitoring compliance by persons on supervised release. They can also deter reoffending and aid law enforcement in criminal investigations. Law enforcement agencies have been able to make arrests in violent crimes where participants were wearing a GPS monitoring device while committing the crime, such as the 2013 drive-by shooting on North Capitol Street that wounded 13 people.

Under previous District law, anyone under supervised release, such as an individual on release pending trial, probation, or parole, who was ordered by a supervision agency to wear a GPS device should have been held criminally responsible for tampering with the device – including attempting to remove it, failure to charge it, or trying to mask its signal. However, pursuant to a decision by the Court of Appeals, the law was interpreted to mean that prosecutions could only be done when the individual was ordered to wear a GPS device by the U.S. Parole Commission or a judge.

At the bill signing, Mayor Bowser was joined by United States Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing Phillips, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, and Interim Chief of Police Peter Newsham.”

  • KKSS

    So wait, before today it was…strongly discouraged to remove a count-ordered GPS monitoring device? The more things I learn about DC’s criminal justice system, the more scared I am to live in this city.

    • Zora

      Totally agree! :(

    • Truxton Thomas

      I mean, this is directly related to the murder of Tricia McCauley, right? http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/dc-murder-suspect-should-have-been-wearing-gps-monitor-court-docs-show/379382726

      • ANON

        I believe in her case it was the fact that the guy didn’t even go in to get the court ordered device put on! I think we need to enforce that rule first! This makes me so angry, all of it!!!!

        • JoDa

          The guy who committed the home invasion rape in Hill East had cut his off. It’s just too bad that it took so long after THAT to take action.

    • Anon

      The law was on the books, but the Court of Appeals interpreted it as only applying to GPS devices ordered by the Parole Commission or the Court. This left off all of the other possible supervision agencies, such as the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency. This clarified the District’s intent with original law.

  • whoa_now

    how was this not already a law?

    • “pursuant to a decision by the Court of Appeals, the law was interpreted to mean that prosecutions could only be done when the individual was ordered to wear a GPS device by the U.S. Parole Commission or a judge.”

      • LittleBluePenguin

        Wow. This is so common sense, but leave it to a bunch of judges and lawyers to screw everyone over with their nitpicking.

        • Tsar of Truxton

          Haha, why blame the judges and lawyers instead of the Council for drafting poor legislation in the first place?

          • Anon

            DC Government – the only place where folks will issue a press release to pat themselves on the back for fixing a problem that was entirely their own fault.

          • Anon

            Really? I’m not the Council’s biggest fan, but that is a pretty negative characterization when the courts reinterpret legislation literally all the time.

  • anon

    doesn’t matter if they dont’ show up to get the device put on.

  • dc_anon

    Too bad they don’t have recommendations for when the tracking must be installed as getting it on the perp in the first place seems to be a problem.

  • Hill Res

    “Last year, the District of Columbia saw significant decreases in the numbers of homicides, burglaries and robberies. Violent and property crimes are down in our first two years in office, but we can and must do better,”

    Really….who did the statistics for her?

    This GPS political theater legislation is due to a couple of horrible crimes that damaged many lives. Wearing a GPS device would not have stopped those. You think someone that is bent on committing a crime like murder/assault/rape cares about being further punished for removing/not getting a GPS monitor? Deterrent, maybe in some cases, but tell that to the next victim that is criminally acted on by someone wearing a device.

    • Tsar of Truxton

      Well, if you look at the MPD stats, crime went down in 2016, but mainly because it spikes in her first year of office.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        *spiked

      • Anon

        Not true. Serious violent and property crime is down compared to 2014 too (-7% and -9%, respectively).

  • Absurdity Abounds

    Good start. Now let’s amend the law so that those arrested for possession on an illegal firearm can be held in jail for more than 24 hours before being released.

    • Annon MPD (2)

      Makes too much sense. I sadly don’t see that changing any time soon.

    • Northzax

      First, you’ll need an expansion of the DC Jail. The legal capacity is 2,164. Last year the average daily population was 2130. Which means on any given day, you could add 34 people (men, women are housed next door) so for everyone you arrest, you have to let someone go.

  • mcd

    I guess I am missing this. I am hearing a major cause of recidivism isn’t the laws on the books but that they go unpunished for whatever reason after arrest. Who cares if the max crime for cutting off your ankle monitor is 6 months if it is just another law that goes unenforced?

    • dunning-kruger

      You are. More time in prison = more recidivism. Our prisons are not functioning rehabilitation centers, they are actually the opposite.
      .
      That isn’t to say that no one should be incarcerated. But while leniency does obviously create opportunities for recidivism there aren’t any legit studies to show causation, in fact most show an opposite correlation (because causation can’t really be determined in an issue this complex). Here is a bullet point from a federal convict study:
      .
      “Offenders released from incarceration in 2005 had a rearrest rate of 52.5 percent, while offenders released directly to a probationary sentence had a rearrest rate of 35.1 percent.”
      .
      So those who served time were ~15% more likely to reoffend compared to those just given probation. So we should exercise caution throwing those 35%ers in with the 50%ers lest they come out 6 months later as 50%ers.

      • dy

        Bad use of statistics. The far more likely and obvious explanation for that correlation is that those the offenders who served prison time committed more serious offenses in the first place as compared to people who just received probation, and are hence 15% more likely to re-offend. I get your point, which has truth to it, but the statistic you are citing doesn’t remotely prove that and is easily explained otherwise.

        • dunning-kruger

          It is a correlation. My for laypeople explanation admittedly sucks and isn’t intended to be taken literally. All I’m saying is be careful because this could easily backfire. DC has had a massive crime drop in the last 20 years, sending shoplifters to prison for messing with their ankle bracelets may not achieve the desired results and may backfire.
          .
          You realize my “bad use of statistics” was in response to someone “hearing” things right? I should learn from Trump and never say anything of substance so people can’t call me out for slights of statistics.

  • Khris

    *facepalm* While they’re at it, maybe they should check the books to make sure that killing people is illegal in the District of Columbia.

  • Edgewood resident

    I don’t understand. If a judge orders that you wear a GPS device, why can’t they put this on the person right away? Instead the person has an appointment to come back to get fitted? Of course, being the law abiding, moral people they are, we trust them to return. Makes NO SENSE!!

    I would also prefer different versions of the GPS device, for low risk criminals and high risk criminals. The high risk criminals would have one that would give you shocks if you tried to cut if off. But then again, I am really tired of the scum who destroy lives and have little empathy for them.

  • lisavfr
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