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Penal Code is now Law; total sentences can reach 60 years in jail

The legislation should now be promulgated or observed by the Executive Power

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Penal Code is now Law; total sentences can reach 60 years in jail
SD. The Chamber of Deputies converted the legislative proposal which modified various articles of the Penal Code of the Dominican Republic into law yesterday. They approved the bill in a single discussion which accepted the legislation just as it had been returned from the Senate with its modifications.

The legislative proposal, which consists of six conclusions, 52 citations and 356 articles, it should be promulgated or observed by the Executive Power.

It was approved with 132 votes in favor and 3 against. These three were the votes of deputies Minou Tavarez Mirabal, Juan Hubieres and Magna Rodriguez. On the other hand, 11 deputies abstained from voting.

The Senate included in this legislative initiative the classification of the forceful disappearance of persons, with punishments and aggravating circumstances and the penalization of multilevel businesses or pyramid schemes.

The legislative bill establishes an accumulation of sentences of up to 60 years in prison, raises the maximum penalty from 30 to 40 years in jail; punishes violent domestic deaths with up to 40 years in prison and kidnapping with sentences from 20 to 30 years in jail.

It also classifies horrendous crimes, the invasion and occupation of lands; it condemns rustling, the use of "Devils Acid" - a mixture of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids - and killing for hire. In addition it punishes with up to 10 years in prison adults who use minors to commit their crimes.

If this law is promulgated it will revoke 51 laws or legal dispositions according to article 354.

In article 355 it provides a period of a year to the Executive Power to carry out the readjustments and necessary changes to the current legislation, which are supplementary to the Penal Code.

The president of the legislative body, Abel Martinez, asked his companions to call the absent deputies at the time of voting, in order to "not lose being part of history," as a way of guaranteeing the quorum.

The chairman of the Justice Commission, Demostenes Martinez, said that yesterday was an historic day, because the Chamber of Deputies converted the proposal which modifies various articles of the Penal Code that has been in effect for 130 years, into law.

He recalled that the study of the modifications to the Penal Code began some 17 years ago at the initiative of then-President Leonel Fernandez and that he, Martinez, 14 years ago presented the first proposal of the law for this purpose to the National Congress.

He appreciated that in the Senate the proposal was strengthened, and that it was sent to the Language Academy in order to be enriched. He assured reporters that the new Penal Code will guarantee an efficient prosecution for those that commit crimes in the country.

The debates

Before the approval of the project there were prolonged debates in which 17 deputies took part including the president of the lower chamber Abel Martinez.

The Reformists deputy Pedro Botello said that the National Congress is "decked out" in order to put a modern piece of legislation in the hands of those who administer justice and who pursue crime.

He believes that the new Penal Code is in tune with the new norms as it introduces 82 modifications.

"This Code gives a fatal blow to organized crime, to the organized criminals," he stressed.

In the meantime, the PLD deputy, Elpidio Baez, called attention to the criminal policies that are being developed in the country, because he believes these do not contribute to reduce crimes.

He feels that this Penal Code is aimed at hardening the penalties, under the idea of a tough hand and zero-tolerance, and this does not guarantee the hoped-for results.

He reflected on many deficiencies that affect the judicial system, in spite of the fact that the Penal Process Code has been in force for 10 years.

"We wish to call attention to the fact that in order to improve Dominican justice not only is it needed to strengthen the penal laws. All the actors of the penal justice system have to work in the same direction to promote an integrated policy, a policy of reduction of inequality," he expressed.

The spokesman for the PRSC deputies, Ramon Rogelio Genao, asked for the close of debates. He was seconded by the PRD deputy, Radhames González, and it was accepted by the Plenary.

The deputies rejected a proposal for modification made by Deputy Josefa Castillo and the suggestions by deputies Minou Tavarez Mirabal and Magna Rodriguez to postpone the approval of the legislative initiative, in order to ask the judges for their interpretations with respect to several articles.

Protection of doctors for abortions

Deputies Geovanny Tejada, Minou Tavarez Mirabal and Magna Rodriguez expressed their worries regarding the "state of necessity" defined in article 22 of the legislation, with relation to the application of therapeutic abortions. Regarding this aspect, the president of the lower chamber, Abel Martinez, assured the deputies that the Congressional spirit is that of preserving legitimate defense, and he assured the deputies that the doctors will be protected in case they practice this type of abortion.

Deputy Henry Meran asked his colleagues not to worry about the "state of necessity" because the Dominican Constitution is clear on this respect.