Public Comments for: SB1315 - Criminal proceedings; consideration of mental condition & intellectual & developmental disabilities.
SB1266 - Deeds. I urge the committee to support this bill. The code is currently in contradiction to the concept and supposed right to be presumed innocent until/unless proven guilty. The fact that someone can be locked up without bail on the mere basis of the charge flies in the face of justice. This bill will correct a terrible flaw in our criminal justice system. SB1315 - McClellan. I urge the committee to support this bill and conform HB 2047 to this bill. The mental health considerations were stripped from Bourne's bill for what sounded like fears of worst case scenarios and fears that the bill would automatically allow someone with mental illness a free pass. There seemed to be a fear that simply allowing the defendant's mental health issues to be considered throughout the process was equivalent to a not guilty decision for anyone with mental illness. This is a gross misinterpretation. To continue to prevent consideration of defendants' mental illness or presence of intellectual or developmental disabilities is patently unjust - and will allow the current miscarriage of justice which is reflected in the statistics documenting the over-representation of people with mental illness, developmental disabilities and intellectual disabilities in our criminal justice systems. For both SB 1266 and SB1315, these are not bills that are soft on crime as suggested by some. Rather, they rebalance the criminal justice system to consider each case individually with full information rather than acting from a place of prejudgment and retribution.
SB 1266 - Removing the presumption against bail allows for Judges to evaluate bail in a more fair and just manner which aligns with the core tenet of presumption of innocence. Judges can and should be allowed to determine bail on a case by case basis without being forced to start at a presumption against bond. Arbitrary pretrial incarceration makes it difficult for defendant's to assist in their defense and can lead to mental health and medical issues associated with the poor treatment of inmates, especially during a pandemic. SB1315 - Our justice system must include language that allows for the defendant's mental health to be addressed during the case in chief. This bill allows for our state to become more in line with the Model Penal Code. I have had dozens of cases as a criminal defense attorney over the last two decades where an individual with significant mental health issues did not meet the very rigid and narrow definition of insanity and instead were incarcerated for substantial amounts of time after a guilty verdict. These individuals should have been able to present evidence of their mental health at the time of the offense when determining guilt or innocence. It was a travesty of justice that they could not and it is time for Virginia to recognize the need to give those suffering from mental health other avenues for justice. SB1442 - As a former public defender in the City of Richmond I encourage the members of this Committee to vote in support of a Public Defender's Office in the County of Chesterfield. I practice frequently in this County and can say the level of representation by the court appointed counsel is substantially hindered by the lack of resources and low pay for these attorneys. A Public Defender's Office helps level the playing field for indigent defendants by providing those resources currently not available to court appointed counsel, as well as, not making counsel dependent upon the Judge for their source of income. A defendant represented by a Public Defender would have access to an investigator in their case, regardless of the severity. Currently, only the most serious of charges warrants the granting of funds for an investigator. This means defendant's facing misdemeanors and low level felonies, that could result in jail time, do not have access to an investigator who could help locate witnesses, canvas scenes, and provide other pretrial work the attorney cannot or should not be doing. Additionally, the Public Defender's office would have mitigation specialists on staff to help with complex cases or complex defendant's who need more help at the pretrial or sentencing phase of a case. Additionally, thanks to the substantial number of Public Defender Offices across the state attorneys would have access to brief and motions banks for trial and appellate purposes. Lastly, attorneys in this office would have supervision and daily oversight to insure they are held to the high standards put in place by the Indigent Defense Commission for representation of their clients. Real reform of our justice system must include the ability to have counsel that is both qualified and has the resources necessary to be effective in their representation. Thank you.
Hello, I’m writing to express my support of SB1315. I’ve been a resident of Virginia’s 58th district for over 20 years. As the father of an adult son with serious mental illness, this bill is personal for me. At the height of my son’s mental health crises in his teens and early 20s, he had several encounters with law enforcement. By the grace of God, none of those encounters resulted in assault against law enforcement officer charges or any other charges. But he easily could have been charged with a criminal offense, in which case, the ability to enter into defense background on his mental illness that exacerbated his behavior and decision-making ability, would have been essential. One way we can stem the tide of a disproportionate number of people experiencing mental illness from ending up in our jails and prisons is if we become more informed about how we are engaging with these individuals whenever they become involved in the criminal process. I am heartened that SB1315 appears to be moving in that direction. Thank you for your consideration of my perspective as you deliberate on SB1315. Sincerely, Derik Rice 81 Richards Ct. Ruckersville, VA 22968 434-242-0449
Dear Members of the House Courts of Justice SubCommittee, The Virginia Autism Project supports SB1315 which will allow the court to consider a developmental disability/intellectual disability and an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during the bail and sentencing stages. -This is important because currently, someone who is unable to understand the impact of their behavior or who is unable to control their behavior will still be held accountable for that behavior. -Even though individuals with developmental/ intellectual disabilities and /or an ASD diagnosis, do not adequately have their mental health issues or diminished capacity weighed in criminal justice proceedings. -Training for the attorneys involved in these cases is so very important also. Please vote yes on SB1315.