Senate passes Penal Code bill; bill now moves to the Chamber of Deputies

The Senate fast-tracked the second reading of the Penal Code as cleared by the senator committee, passing the bill that introduces 72 new criminal classifications to bolster the country’s legal framework, as reported in Listin Diario.

There is a rush to move the bill on to the Chamber of Deputies in time to pass the bill in this legislature that ends on 26 July. The new legislature reopens on 16 August 2024, with several legislators leaving and new legislators joining the Legislative Branch.

The bill passed in the Senate without the three exceptions for abortion. PLD senator Yvan Lorenzo reminded the PRM-majority that when they were opposition in 2017 they had voted in favor of the three grounds. President Abinader has said he favors the three grounds. The ruling party Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) is majority in both houses of Congress.

The bill had been introduced in mid-June 2024 by many times Senator Rogelio Genao (PRSC-La Vega) and contains 419 articles. The bill that has passed is very similar to the bill that has more than 23 years in the National Congress.

The country’s maximum sentence is increased to 60 years from 30 years with the introduction of accumulated sentencing. The crimes of contract killing, feminicide and genocide are defined and penalization is established.

Twenty out of 22 senators present voted in favor of the bill, while three senators opposed it.

The primary aim of the criminal code overhaul is to update the country’s penal framework, which has remained unchanged since its enactment in 1884. There are been numerous unsuccessful legislative attempts over the past 23 years to pass a new Penal Code.

Senators Bautista Rojas Gómez (Hermanas Mirabal), Iván Lorenzo (Elías Piña), and Senate Vice President Faride Raful (Distrito Nacional) were among those who rejected the committee’s report, chaired by Senator Santiago Zorrilla of El Seibo. The first three senators will not continue in the Senate. Senator Zorrilla was elected for a third term.

Senator Iván Lorenzo requested a clause-by-clause review of the bill, a proposal that was ultimately dismissed.

The Rojas, Lorenzo and Raful argued that their stance in favor of the three exceptions reflects a commitment to women’s dignity, citing the exclusion of abortion decriminalization in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, the fetus is non-viable, or pregnancy results from sexual assault.

Senate President Ricardo de los Santos (PRM-Sanchez Ramirez) rejected Lorenzo’s requests, affirming that the special committee had already confirmed the bill’s consistency with the version approved in 2023, which had subsequently lapsed in the Chamber of Deputies during deliberations.

Ultimately, the opposition’s call for a clause-by-clause review was denied, with 20 out of 22 senators voting against it.

The approved Penal Code includes classifications of penalties based on the severity of the crime. Very serious offenses could lead to a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and fines of up to 1,000 times the minimum public sector wage.

Less serious offenses carry sentences ranging from 15 days to three years, accompanied by fines of one to 15 times the minimum wage, potentially supplemented by other penalties.

Discrimination, defined as treating someone unfairly based on gender, color, age, disability, nationality, family ties, language, religion, political or philosophical beliefs, social or personal status, carries penalties ranging from 15 days to one year in prison, along with fines of one to two times the minimum public sector wage.

The legislators crafted these provisions in accordance with Article 36 of the Constitution, ensuring equality before the law for all individuals.

Yet some lawmakers expressed concern over potential conflicts arising from the article’s concluding statement, which defines discrimination as any act based on inherent characteristics or conditions of a person.

Penalties for devil’s acid crimes are included in the new Penal Code bill.

Read more in Spanish:
Listin Diario
Listin Diario
El Dia

4 July 2024