718 A.2d 133 (D.C. 1998), 97-CO-828, Parrish v. District of Columbia

Docket Nº:97-CO-828.
Citation:718 A.2d 133
Party Name:Robert Lee PARRISH, Appellant, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.
Case Date:September 10, 1998
Court:Court of Appeals of Columbia District
 
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718 A.2d 133 (D.C. 1998)

Robert Lee PARRISH, Appellant,

v.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Appellee.

No. 97-CO-828.

Court of Appeals of Columbia District

September 10, 1998

Argued June 2, 1998.

Webster T. Knight, Washington, DC, for appellant.

Rosalyn Calbert Groce, Assistant Corporation Counsel, with whom Jo Anne Robinson, Interim Corporation Counsel, and Robert R. Rigsby, Deputy Corporation Counsel, were on the brief, for appellee.

Before TERRY, SCHWELB, and FARRELL, Associate Judges.

TERRY, Associate Judge.

On April 15, 1997, appellant Parrish pleaded guilty to a charge of drinking in public. [1] He was sentenced to thirty days in jail and was ordered to pay $50 to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund. His sole contention on appeal is that the trial court erred in imposing the $50 assessment. He offers two alternative arguments. First, he maintains that the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Act of 1996 does not apply to persons convicted of non-serious misdemeanors, such as drinking in public; second, he asserts that judges may waive its provisions and in the past have done so. We reject both arguments and affirm the $50 assessment.

I

The Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Act of 1981 ("the 1981 Act"), D.C.Code §§ 3-401 through 3-415 (1994), created a compensation program for victims of violent crime in the District of Columbia. [2] The program's

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resources were entrusted to the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund ("CVCF"), at that time administered by the Mayor through his designee, the Department of Employment Services ("DOES"). The CVCF was funded primarily by assessments on persons convicted of crimes in the District of Columbia. In particular, D.C.Code § 3-414 (1994) provided in part:

In addition to and separate from any punishment imposed, a cost of at least $20 and not more than $500 for each felony charge, and a cost of $10 for each misdemeanor charge, shall be imposed upon each person convicted of or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to such charge in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Court"). The amount of costs assessed under this section for felonies shall be determined by the courts on the basis of the estimated severity of the injury or loss caused by the crime. The decision of the Court regarding costs shall be final.... All such costs shall be payable to the District of Columbia Treasurer for deposit to the credit of the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund.

The 1981 Act did not contain any language allowing judges to waive its apparently mandatory assessments. However, "[s]ome of the judges at the D.C. Superior Court admitted that they were skeptical of the program and whether money was actually reaching the many victims who needed it. As a result, many judges did not consistently impose or collect the applicable fines needed to fund the program." COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, REPORT ON BILL 11-657, THE "VICTIMS OF VIOLENT CRIME COMPENSATION ACT OF 1981 AMENDMENT ACT OF 1996," at 3 (September 26, 1996) (hereinafter REPORT).

After DOES suspended the program on July 5, 1996, for lack of funding, [3] the Council passed the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Emergency Act of 1996, which temporarily repealed D.C.Code §§ 3-401 through 3-415. [4] Shortly thereafter, the Victims of Violent Crime Compensation Act of 1996 ("VVCCA" or "the 1996...

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