« AnteriorContinuar »
provide space for the four new judges who have been appointed-are you going to rent space, or to split the space-what are you going to do immediately—and then I would like to know the status of your actual new center, which I understand has been in planning for some time, but has not come to fruition?
Mr. Tobriner. We are presently providing for this space for the judges in the old District Court Building. We have an item of $100,000, I believe, out for survey funds in order to provide a new general courthouse for the court of general sessions.
Mr. Adams. That is in this budget?
Mr. TOBRINER. We do not know, first, when the budget will be passed, and become law, but it will not be ready, I would say, for a minimum of 3 or 4 years, because we have to develop plans for itwe have to acquire the site for it-and we have to begin the construction, and after that to provide the equipment for it.
Mr. Adams. This goes directly to the problem that is set forth in titles I and III and, actually, I, III, and IV of the anticrime bill. I understand that there is a backlog in the District of Columbia General Sessions Court. Counsellor, you can correct me if this is wrongthere is a backlog of approximately 2,000 cases, and a number of convictons are not being made because of the interminable delays of trying to get witnesses there, officers there, and so on. The court of general sessions is completely blocked. Is that right, or is that wrong?
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN, I could not confirm the 2,000 figure, sir. It is correct that there is a backlog in that court. It is, also, probably correct that there is some loss of convictions because of this.
Mr. Adams. There is also, as I understand it, a system here whereby the grand jury will take some of these cases and certify them back to the Court of General Sessions then--for some kind of a misdemeanor is that correct?
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. Yes; because the judges of the Court of General Sessions sit as committing magistrates in felony cases and frequently, cases are referred to the grand jury for—but upon further investigation at the grand jury stage, because of the weakness in the evidence, the court refers them back to the court of general sessions for them to handle as a misdemeanor or otherwise.
Mr. Adams. And that carries-
Mr. ADAMS. Could you supply this committee with the figures on the actual backlog in the District of Columbia Court of General Sessions court as of now, and also, the average time period between when the case is presented as ready and the time when it is actually tried?
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. Criminal cases only?
Mr. ADAMS. Criminal cases only. This al refers to the criminal side of the docket.
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. Yes. (See item VII, Commissioner's letter to the Chairman, at p.58.) Mr. Adams. I just want to confirm one last thing. As I understand, Mr. Tobriner--and I will direct this to all of the Commissioners at this time--you are in support of the crime reduction bill which was the one that the Attorney Ger has prepared. Mr. TOBRINER. Yes, sir.
we have so stated.
Mr. ADAMS. I have no further questions.
Mr. GUDE. I am very happy that you are holding these hearings on both of these bills, Mr. Chairman. So far as the suburban area is concerned, in, for example, Montgomery County, this apathy on this whole question in the metropolitan area is tied together, so far as the crime problem is concerned." What we are doing here today is worth while to the suburban area and to the whole country, and I think that we are all dedicated, certainly, I think, to working on both these bills to get a good package to work on and to work on promptly.
Mr. TOBRINER. Thank you.
Mr. STEIGER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is obvious from your remarks--and it has to be obvious from the facts alone that the crime rate has been rising. Basically as a layman, one inexperienced in this geographic area, it has occurred to me that there are only two real basic reasons for this. One is the growth in population and the economic conditions, and the other is a lack of any significant change in the procedures. That is, in the enforcement or judicial procedures.
It seems to me that your concern, for example, with title I, compounds the problem rather than alleviates it. I can understand why you would adopt this view, but you appear to be anticipating the will of the courts in relation to the technical area of adjudication. You are very concerned about title I as to its constitutionality. It seems to me, rather than a concern on your part—and I think a justifiable one that maybe you are going to do some damage, some further damage to the judicial processes. Is that so?
Mr. TOBRINER. I think that there is far less likelihood of disagreement if the accused is advised of his rights before a public body, rather than otherwise.
Mr. STEIGER. Commissioner Tobriner, do you recognize that this presents a burden on the enforcement officer?
Mr. TOBRINER. Yes.
Mr. STEIGER. You, also, admit that it may not make for convictions. In your opinion, I gather, it will insure his constitutional rights? Mr. TOBRINER. Yes.
Mr. STEIGER. It might not jeopardize them, but the presence of it will insure it.
Mr. TOBRINER. Not his constitutional rights, but the assurance of a conviction that will be a fair one.
Mr. STEIGER. I have had the opportunity of spending a Saturday with the police force here in the District of Columbia, traveling around with them. I was impressed with the fact that all of the officers are armed with this card. I am wondering if you are aware that some difficulty has arisen out of the use of this card. In which the officer asks, after reading the card, do you understand? And the suspect says, "No, I do not understand."
Well, this places the officer in the position of repeating what is on the card and is subject to explain, upon which the suspect insists that he does not understand. And this was in a case where after the discussion the officer releases a man, because as he explained it—that is, the officer—with the man taking this position in court that the case would be thrown out if he did that. That he could not get a
conviction. It seems to me that this is an example of the whole problem here. In this desperate attempt to conform to the will of the Federal bench, in fact we are circumventing the law. The officers are reluctant to make arrests. And of the accused, by your own statistical evidence, 80 percent are repeaters. They are experienced. They know a good deal more about this than you or I, I presume, or a great many of us, at least. And this is evidenced by their attitude when arrested. As one man said, “I will beat you out of the station house." I have to assume that he knew what he was talking about. He had, obviously, been there many times.
It seems to me that in a desperate attempt to conform to a judicial process you are placing in jeopardy the success of any anticrime program. And I would submit that the Commission, at the risk of its own future life, of you individual gentlemen, that would be very logical to rise up and say that this is a bad thing, that it is one of the contributing factors to this, rather than say, "I conform to the will of the courts.” I may be asking too much.
Mr. TOBRINER. As long as what the court says it is, we must uphold the law.
Mr. STEIGER. I submit that you are exercising, for example, when the desire is to use it, that it goes beyond the original word of the Constitution--I submit that you gentlemen, if you feel this way--if you feel that the courts should be upheld, maybe you do not feel this way--that you are too permissive,
Mr. TOBRINER. We are just as interested in obtaining convictions as you are.
Mr. STEIGER. I never have questioned that for a minute.
Mr. STEIGER. But in the pursuit of the conviction we turn more people loose, or we apprehend fewer people—are we not, even if we did achieve more convictions, but even if we did, would we not be defeating the basic purpose which is to control crime?
Mr. TOBRINER. You have to control crime, Mr. Steiger, within the ambits of the law as determined by the courts.
Mr. STEIGER. You do not concede, then, that we are being overcautious in this?
Mr. TOBRINER. I think that we are conforming to the law as determined by the courts.
Mr. STEIGER. I appreciate your presence here today.
Mr. STEIGER. I think that you gentlemen, or the Congress, or someone has to say which is the right and wrong time here. I would be more comfortable with lesser crime. I think that you have to recognize that there is something wrong with the approach we are taking somewhere. I wish that you gentlemen who are experienced in this, would go into that question.
Mr. Sisk. If I may, Mr. Tobriner, I have not had as much time to study the proposal which the administration has introduced through my good friend, Mr. Adams, but in going through it it seems to me that new material has been put into it. I would like to ask you about that, in your title II on “Arrest,” that is, without warrant, page 22 of the bill-I just wonder if you would comment on that particular title. It is a very brief title. What the objective is here, and why this title was put in. Would you make a comment on that?
Mr. TOBRINER. Yes, sir.
Frequently the police, in respect to a crime that was not committed in their presence, in order to make an arrest-it may be dangerous to allow him to remain at large, whose apprehension may be more difficult later, to charge the commission of a felony, whereas, in fact, a misdemeanor has been committed. And thereafter the charge is reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. This would remedy that situation by extending the character of the case necessary which the police could arrest for without a warrant.
Mr. Sisk. It seems to me that what you were saying here in title II flies in face of some of your comments with reference to or your criticisms of the other bill, which, I believe, contains this in title III, and I have a great deal of difficulty trying to weed out exactly the difference in the approach. There must, apparently, be a very fine line. I was wondering if this is your attempt to go into an approach as the committee did attempt to do in the crime bill last year?'
Mr. TOBRINER. No, sir. A crime has been committed, and it is merely a question of whether it is a misdemeanor—whether the police can arrest, since it is not-it has not been permitted in their presence; therefore, this is an attempt to extend the character of the misdemeanor for which the police may make an arrest without a warrant. And the basis of it is that the policeman should have probable cause as to believe the crime has been committed which is listed in the subsection. And further, that unless that person is arrested he will not be apprehended, or he may cause damage to property, et cetera. For example, there is a fight going on-a family fight—which is, obviously a misdemeanor, but unless the police are able to arrest on the spot, the person charged with the assault, then it is necessary to get a warrant. This is an attempt, Mr. Sisk, to move that offender, without the use of a warrant, and to prevent him from becoming a further public danger, or a danger to his family.
Mr. Sisk. In other words, he is being arrested without a warrant because of a probable cause?
Mr. TOBRINER. Yes, sir.
Mr. Sisk. So, why do you have so much difficulty and struggle, as it seems to me, with title III, in which you went into considerable detail with reference to the language in the bill that we passed last year to do with detention for probable cause? You see, as I have said, I just have a great deal of difficulty in understanding all the objections that you raised earlier this morning to this title III and the concern that you had about one being detained and questioned where, at least, you had probable cause to believe that he was committing, or had committed a crime. Then you turn right around in your own bill and say that a member of the police force may arrest a person without a warrant for probable cause, because he believes that such a person committed or may commit a crime or a violation. Here again it seems to me that it is tweedledee and tweedledum.
Mr. TOBRINER. No.
Mr. Sisk. I wish that you would make it a little clearer for a layman. What is the difference between the language which, I say, I understand was of great concern to the gentleman in title III vis-a-vis this “b” of title II of the Adams bill.
Mr. TOBRINER. I would say, sir that it is in respect to title III, probable cause, if it exists—there w no reason why an arrest as dis
tinguished from these detentions should not be made on the spot. It has always been the law that the police can arrest for a felony without a warrant—whether the felony has been committed in the presence of the police, or not. This merely extends the types of crime where there is the danger set out in the statute to permit them to arrest without a warrant in that case. But in all cases, probable cause must be found to be present.
Mr. Dowdy. Let me ask you a question there. It is related in title II to this subsection "c," is it?
Mr. TOBRINER. Title II, did you say?
Mr. Dowdy. Title II of this H.R. 7327. We are talking about making an arrest without a warrant.
Mr. TOBRINER. We are talking of title II of our bill?
Mr. Dowdy, Yes. You set out, beginning on line 10, page 23, every one of those as felonies.
Mr. TOBRINER. No, sir.
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. I think that "assault” could be simple assault, which is a misdemeanor.
Receiving stolen goods could be of such value as not to be a felony.
With respect to the rest of them I think that there is a feeling rather, with respect to an attempt, as I recall—any attempt to commit housebreaking, grand larceny, et cetera, that those would be a misdemeanor.
Mr. Dowdy. Any attempt is a misdemeanor?
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. I would have to read the statute. That is my recollection.
Mr. Dowdy. Under the present law, as it is right now, cannot an officer without a warrant arrest a person if he has reasonable or probable cause to believe that such a person has committed a felony?
Mr. CHARLES DUNCAN. A felony, yes, sir.
Mr. Dowdy. If you go to subsection (C), this would limit him purely to these particular offenses. You specifically say:
An officer or member of the Metropolitan Police force may arrest a person witho a warrant if he has probable cause to believe that such person ta mitted any violation listed in subsection (C) hereof.
Mr. TOBRINER. It would have the effect of repealing the common law right.
Mr. Dowdy. Is there not some rule of construction of the statute that would govern this?
Mr. TOBRINER. In the absence of a warrant.
Mr. Dowdy. This is the thing-would it not be better if you are going to have this in here, instead of saying that he can do it in each case, to say in addition to felony cases he can do it in certain other cases.
Mr. TOBRINER. Certainly, there would be no objection to that.
Mr. Dowdy. It would seem to me that it would be to put more limitation-maybe that is the purpose–I do not know.
Mr. TOBRINER. That is not the intent.