Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), today led 23 Republican colleagues in introducing a broad package to clarify and strengthen violent crime laws related to homicide, bank robbery, carjacking, kidnapping and other offenses. The Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act resolves discrepancies brought on by conflicting court decisions and clarifies congressional intent regarding crimes of violence and their respective penalties. Despite an ongoing crime wave, no Democrats have agreed to cosponsor the fixes.
“Crime is skyrocketing in communities across the country. Carjackings, homicides, attacks on law enforcement are all up. We have a duty to ensure that penalties for federal offenses serve as a deterrent and that any ambiguity from split court decisions is rectified so that perpetrators can be held accountable. This bill includes a number of small fixes that will go a long way in improving justice and preventing future crimes. Unfortunately, we don’t yet have bipartisan support to advance these modest, but meaningful, reforms. American communities are suffering under a scourge of lawlessness, so I hope we get some cooperation soon and I’ll keep reaching across the aisle to get it,” Grassley said.
Many communities across the country continue to experience steadily increasing violent crime. Murder rates increased 30 percent in 2020 and continued climbing in 2021. Carjackings, particularly in urban areas are on the rise, with some cities recording up to 400 percent spikes. Overdose deaths surpassed 100,000 last year, with fentanyl appearing in a variety of substances, including candy-flavored drugs that are marketed to children. 2021 marked the deadliest year for law enforcement since the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act addresses ambiguity and conflicting application of existing law by clarifying congressional intent without establishing sweeping new offense categories. Among other provisions, the bill:
- Clarifies that attempted bank robbery and conspiracy to commit bank robbery are punishable under the current bank robbery statute;
- Abolishes an outdated rule that prohibits perpetrators of violent crime from being charged with murder if the victim succumbs to injuries sustained by that violent crime 366 days after the attack;
- Rectifies conflicting circuit court decisions that have resulted in a higher burden to charge offenses like assaulting a police officer than Congress intended;
- Increases the statutory maximum penalty for carjacking and removes a duplicative intent requirement needed to charge a carjacking offense;
- Rectifies conflicting circuit court decisions by clarifying that an attempt or conspiracy to commit an offence involving physical force meets the legal definition of a crime of violence;
- Outlaws the marketing of candy-flavored drugs to minors; and
- Establishes a new category of violent kidnapping offences, allowing for greater penalties for violent kidnapping.
“NDAA is excited to endorse the Combating Violence and Dangerous Crime Act, an important effort to fix criminal provisions in Title 18 of the Federal Code which ensures prosecutors have the tools needed to hold bad actors accountable. We look forward to working alongside the Senate Judiciary Committee to adopt these commonsense measures to improve public safety,” said Nelson Bunn, Executive Director, National District Attorneys Association
“This legislation brings clarity to many areas in the law currently impacted by circuit splits. This clarity will enhance the rule of law by creating consistency in criminal enforcement. As violent crime continues to rise in major cities, this legislation will also increase successful prosecutions and deter offenses like bank robbery, carjackings, and kidnappings. This bill also addresses our nation’s ongoing drug overdose epidemic and seeks to protect our nation’s most vulnerable citizens: children. NAAUSA fully supports this legislation and appreciates Senator Grassley for leading on these issues,” said Steve Wasserman, National President of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys (NAAUSA).
“At this moment in history, when violent crime is exploding, the Sheriffs stand with Senator Grassley in supporting his Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act. It is critical that our federal partners have the tools they need to prosecute and incarcerate the most dangerous criminals in America,” said Sheriff Jim Skinner, Chairman, Government Affairs Committee, National Sheriffs Association.
“The Major County Sheriffs of America is pleased to support this bill which would clarify and strengthen federal law related to certain violent crimes including carjacking, help safeguard children from dangerous drugs, and protect federal law enforcement officers. We applaud Senator Grassley for this effort to ensure federal law provides tools to deter and punish violent crime,” said the Major County Sheriffs of America.
“The Major Cities Chiefs Association member agencies continue to respond to increased violent crime in their jurisdictions. The Combatting Violent and Dangerous Crime Act will provide law enforcement with additional tools to hold these violent offenders accountable by addressing circuit court splits, closing loopholes in the law, and updating outdated statutes. The MCCA thanks Sen. Grassley for introducing this legislation and his continued support for law enforcement,” said the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
Along with Grassley, the bill is cosponsored by Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), John Kennedy (R-La.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.).
Combating Violent and Dangerous Crime Act
At Grassley’s request, the Judiciary Committee held a hearing this week on the rise in violence targeting law enforcement officers. Iowan Zach Andersen, of Cedar Falls, testified about witnessing a fatal ambush on Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith last year, and the need to support and protect law enforcement.