Public Comments for: HB369 - Court appearance of a person not free on bail; changes to provisions regarding bail hearings, etc.
Last Name: Carron Locality: Williamsburg, VA 23185-3406

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. For the last few years I have been volunteering with the Legal Aid Justice Center observing the first appearances of people arrested, often for minor offenses, and have observed first hand how this often has a negative effect on the county, city and families of the arrested person. As you probably know, in Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention. HB 369 would also make the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused. This also reduces the costs of providing pre-trial detention for minor offenses, saving our communities money as well as providing stability to families most often at-risk. Counsel at First Appearance is working in a variety of localities around the state and many jurisdictions will be able to implement it at little or no added cost. Sincerely, Michael Carron 16 Bayberry Ln Williamsburg, VA 23185-3406

Last Name: Kregiel Locality: Williamsburg

I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. Prior to Covid, I spent several years visiting the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail weekly for a Bible Study program with female inmates. There I saw women, many with children at home, languishing in jail. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. I urge you to support HB 369.

Last Name: Patricia Black-Evers Organization: Williamsburg James City County Coalition for Community Justice Locality: Williamsburg

Please vote in favor of HB 369, that will provide Counsel at First Appearance. COUNSEL AT FIRST APPEARANCE IS CRITICAL! In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. Once they appear in court, they are forced to navaigate at very complex legal system without a lawyer. This is a true injustice so providing a lawyer during a first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will remedy this. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention - it makes our justice system more just.

Last Name: Gillum Organization: American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU-VA) Locality: Richmond

Honorable Adams and members of the House Courts of Justice Subcommittee, There are few things more fundamental in the American legal system than the right of people accused of a crime to a lawyer. Enshrined in the Sixth Amendment, this right to counsel is critical in ensuring fair and just outcomes for those accused of crimes. All too often the opportunity to consult with a lawyer before one’s court appearance is dependent on a person’s ability to pay for a private attorney. This should not be acceptable. Important decisions are made during the initial appearance – bail considerations, conditions of release, statements that can prove critical in subsequent stages, and sometimes, pleas, convictions, and sentencing. The inability to afford a lawyer should not determine the level of justice one receives in Virginia’s criminal legal process. Without a lawyer to fight for their rights, people are more likely to face unaffordable bond, extended pretrial detention, and punitive pretrial conditions. The consequences of incarceration for even a few days can have long-lasting effects on both the individual’s criminal case and the person’s life outcomes. While languishing in jail people can lose their employment, housing, and custody of children or other family members in need of care. Additionally, people held in jail for long periods also face higher rates of recidivism, are more likely to be convicted, and are more likely to have a longer prison sentences. Access to a legal advocate on the front end helps limit these life-altering consequences. Jurisdictions across the Commonwealth have successfully implemented Counsel at First Appearance. Prince William, Williamsburg, Richmond, Rockbridge, Augusta, and Portsmouth to name a few. These jurisdictions range from public defender systems to panel attorneys. From urban to rural communities. From republican to democratic-leaning areas. Statewide implementation is possible. Ensuring everyone who wants a lawyer has access to one at their first appearance before a judge is a matter of fairness and justice. We support this bill and urge you to vote YES on HB 369. Respectfully Submitted, ACLU of Virginia

Last Name: Emery Organization: SURJ Historic Triangle Chapter Locality: Williamsburg

Comments Document

I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. * In Virginia, people detained for a pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention — often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through their families and communities. When they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. * Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention - it makes our justice system more just. * CAFA also makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused.   * Incarcerating people for fewer days is likely to be a cost-saving measure to localities. * The accused’s right to counsel, from the first moment they enter a courtroom, is a fundamental right that every American deserves when facing the awesome power of the government. Sincerely, Laura Emery, Virginia Resident

Last Name: Benedict Organization: Williamsburg, James City County Coalition for Community Justice Locality: James City County

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I served for a dozen or so years in mentoring ex-offenders from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail as part of a program I co-founded around 2003 with other residents of the Williamsburg, James City County area. I had a number of ex-offenders tell me about their time in detention and the failure to have legal representation, even after they had spent many days, weeks, months incarcerated without legal counsel at their first hearing. I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. Here are some important reasons for supporting this legislation: In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention - it makes our justice system more just CAFA also makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused. Incarcerating people for fewer days is likely to be a cost-saving measure to localities. Counsel at First Appearance is working in a variety of localities around the state and many jurisdictions will be able to implement it at little or no added cost. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. Please make every effort to pass legislation that will adequately address this essential right for those being processed in the criminal justice system of our Commonwealth. Most sincerely, David S. Benedict James City County Resident living at: 3900 Windsor Hall Dr. Apt. E356 Williamsburg, VA 23188

Last Name: Carrion Locality: Williamsburg

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Sincerely, Paulina Carrion Virginia Resident

Last Name: Wertman Locality: Williamsburg

I write to ask for your support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. My reasons are as follows: Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention - it makes our justice system more just Having counsel at first appearance also makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused. Not only will providing counsel at first appearance save costs for localities because people will be incarcerated for fewer days, but also, and more importantly, incarcerating people for fewer days (or not at all) will reduce the loss of jobs, housing and medical care that people experience when people are detained pretrial for days or weeks. Counsel at First Appearance is working in a variety of localities around the state and many jurisdictions will be able to implement it at little or no added cost. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. Sincerely, Virginia Wertman, Virginia Resident

Last Name: McGovern Organization: WJCC Coalition for Community Justice; SURJ-Historic Triangle Locality: York County

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. As a social worker in Virginia, I am acutely aware of the devastating consequences of incarceration for individuals and their families. In Virginia, people may be jailed for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, resulting in lost jobs, housing, medical care – and even their children. When they DO finally appear in court, if they do not have a lawyer who understands our complicated and confusing legal system, they are at an extraordinary disadvantage. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Council at First Appearance is already working in a various jurisdictions across our state, many of whom have implemented it at little or no added cost. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention, making our justice system more just. Furthermore, incarcerating people for fewer days is likely to be a cost-saving measure to localities. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. Please support this critically important bill. Sincerely, Mary McGovern, MSW York County Virginia Resident

Last Name: Cavanaugh Locality: Williamsburg

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment and housing. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Sincerely, Theresa A. Cavanaugh, Virginia Resident

Last Name: Meldrum Locality: Williamsburg

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention. CAFA also makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused. It is likely to be a cost-saving measure for localities, and it will most certainly make our criminal justice system more just. Sincerely, Sara Meldrum, Virginia Resident

Last Name: Stanford Locality: Jams City County

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Having legal representation at their first appearance helps people understand  the proceedings, improves their future appearance rates, and reduces the human cost of pretrial detention - it makes our justice system more just CAFA also makes the overall system more efficient by reducing the number of court appearances and providing an advocate to facilitate interactions with the accused. Few rights are as fundamentally American as the accused’s right to counsel when facing the awesome power of the government. Sincerely, David Stanford, Virginia Resident

Last Name: Walker Organization: WJCC Coalition for Community Justice Locality: Toana

Dear Courts of Justice Subcommittee Members, I am writing to ask you to vote in support of HB 369, which will provide Counsel at First Appearance. In Virginia, people detained pretrial can sit in jail for days or even weeks before they can challenge their detention, often resulting in a loss of employment, housing, access to medical care, and more, with effects rippling through families and communities. And when they finally appear in court, they often face a complicated system without a lawyer. Providing a lawyer during someone's first appearance before a judge and at their bond hearing will go a long way to fixing this injustice. Sincerely, Mr. D. Walker, Virginia Resident

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