Public Comments for 01/22/2021 Courts of Justice - Criminal Subcommittee
HB1791 - Assault and battery or threats of bodily injury; sports official, penalty.
Last Name: R. Carey Harveycutter Locality: Salem

Mr Chairman and committee members. I was signed up to deliver comments in support of HB1791this morning and will try to return after the close today but in the meantime I wanted to share my views on this bill. Sports Tourism has become a huge business not just in Salem but throughout the Commonwealth. Softball, soccer, lacrosse and baseball events are an economic driver for all areas filling our hotels and restaurants. I am very concerned about the availability of officials for our events. We have all heard or read about "out of control" parents and coaches at local sporting events and this must end. Without the youth training grounds for our officials we will no longer be able to host major championships due to the lack of qualified officials. The bill entered by Delegate McNamara would help address the behavior and provides a means to ensure our sports officials will feel safe and be protected from violent acts. I urge the support of this bill. Carey Harveycutter, Director of Tourism, SALEM, Virginia's Championship City

Last Name: Melvin Organization: Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association Locality: Richmond

Mr. Chairman, and members of the Courts of Justice, Criminal Subcommittee, I would like to take a moment to express the strong support of the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging & Travel Association for HB1791. As you may know, sports related tourism has become a significant economic driver for many localities. Cheerleading competitions, lacrosse tournaments, and other sports tourism related events contribute to the economies of many jurisdictions across the Commonwealth. Regrettably, there are unfortunately some parents and other individuals who can be overly aggressive at these events related to the calls made by the sports officials. This can make attracting individuals to serve as sports officials quite challenging. Delegate McNamara's legislation would help address this behavior and provide a means to ensure volunteers and others who serve as sports officials will feel safe, and be protected from violent acts from patrons at the sporting events. For these reasons, we strongly urge you to support HB1791.

Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

I believe that anyone who has attacked a sports official should be completely banned from all of the games.

HB1867 - Victims of crime; compensation, reporting requirement.
Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

Mr. Chairman and Members of this Committee, I strongly disagree with HB1867’s requirement that a crime must be reported to the police within 120 hours. This places a unfair statute of limitations on the victim yet, there should be none.

HB1936 - Robbery; penalties.
Last Name: Eugene Oliver Organization: Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Locality: Harrisonburg

My name is Eugene Oliver and I am President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. I was unable to sign up to speak for the evening session today, but wanted to express our support for the following bills and a brief reasoning as to why: HB 1936 - The Robbery statute as it is now is overly broad and could lead to life sentences for any amount of force combined with a larceny. By establishing degrees of robbery, this bill will lead to more equitable results and that the punishment received more accurately reflects the severity of the offense. HB 2038 - We believe it is important that individuals are not needlessly locked up on technical violations. We wholeheartedly support this bill as a fairer and more equitable way of handling probation violations and issues surrounding the suspension of sentences. HB 2047 - The current law is extremely restrictive as to when information about mental health can be introduced. By allowing mental health evidence when it goes to guilt or innocence or when it would otherwise be relevant as to a defendant's mental state. HB 2290 - In eliminating subsequent enhanced penalties on misdemeanor larcenies, this bill fixes an often seen unjust result where an individual picks up a jail sentence or a felony conviction for a de minimis theft or other larceny. By repealing 18.2-104 and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences or the possibility of a felony conviction, we would be allowing discretion to return in how courts treat these charges and avoiding excessive punishments for thefts that are deemed as non-felonious in their value. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our position on these bills and we ask that you support these bills and report them out of committee.

Last Name: Bridgham Locality: Virginia Beach

We need a way to stop this online predators in our community.

Last Name: Lambert Organization: Roanoke Community Bail Fund Locality: Salem

I strongly urge you to vote No on HB2152! The only people this bill benefits is the parasitic bail bonds industry which profits off of poor and largely Black & Brown Virginians being locked up pretrial. This bill is grossly shameful and will only harm those who are already the most systemically harmed & exploited.

Last Name: Kelly Organization: MPAC Locality: Baltimore

CURRENT VIRGINIA LAW prohibits arrest or prosecution of certain drug-related offenses only to an individual who seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for himself or another individual or who is experiencing an overdose when another individual seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for him. HB 1821 expands these protections to include prohibiting arrest and prosecution of other individuals, acting in good faith, who render medical assistance during an overdose. This bill will allow individuals who need assistance with advocating for special services for treatment versus being incarcerated and not getting the help that is needed. The system needs to understand that information and knowledge of resources about overdose awareness is vital to the community at large.

HB2017 - Juvenile offenders; youth justice diversion programs, report.
Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

Chairman and Members of the Committee, I strongly disagree with HB2017. We, as a society, need to start asking ourselves why our children would need to go to “youth court”. Is there a problem at home ? Are they being bullied at school? Are they hungry or homeless? Do they have a disability? Did they take their medication or are they having a reaction to medication? Youth court is not the answer.

Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

Chairman and Members of the Committee, I strongly disagree with HB2017. We, as a society, need to start asking ourselves why our children would need to go to “youth court”. Is there a problem at home ? Are they being bullied at school? Are they hungry or homeless? Do they have a disability? Did they take their medication or are they having a reaction to medication? Youth court is not the answer.

Last Name: Wheeling Organization: LRIDD Locality: Haymarket, Virginia

Autism is a short circuit in the brain. There is no cure for Autism, just like there is no cure for Down’s Syndrome. There are ways to improve behavior, there are ways to teach and educate, and there are ways to protect and ensure the future for people who suffer from Intellectual and Learning Disabilities. It is not their fault that they were born this way… How a person with a disability thinks, learns, socializes, their strengths and weaknesses, are not necessarily something they can control. It is the mental version of being blind. In many ways, those who have Autism, are more likely to be endangered, abused, bullied, taken advantage of, manipulated, tricked, etc and so on, because they do not learn and comprehend this World of so-called “social norms”. We have spoken to countless people regarding cases such as these. No one we have spoken to believes that someone with Autism, should be put in the prison system, for a crime that was never committed. That would be a major injustice. That would be a horrible injustice and for someone with Autism, that they would never recover from. Never, would I ever, believe that I have to save the Vulnerable from our Justice System. We believe in protecting the Vulnerable – which includes – Children, the Elderly and the Ones with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities. Senator Stuart said, and I quote, “It is clear that individuals, most often children or young adults, who have been diagnosed with Autism, or an intellectual disability by a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist, call for special consideration during the judicial process.” I could not agree more with that statement… I support this bill, wholeheartedly... Cynthia J. Wheeling

Last Name: Bridgham Locality: Virginia Beach

We need a way to stop this online predators in our community.

Last Name: Wilson Organization: City of Newport News Locality: Franklin City

The City of Newport News strongly supports HB 2017 to allow for the creation of a youth peer diversion program. Restorative justice programs such as peer diversion have the potential to reduce a young person's future involvement with the criminal justice system by allowing first time offenders to be sanctioned by a group of their peers who have been appropriately trained to do so. For many, this is an opportunity to avoid juvenile court and and a formal juvenile record. The peer diversion program provides a more positive interaction for the offender and a learning opportunity for the young people involved.

Last Name: Lambert Organization: Roanoke Community Bail Fund Locality: Salem

I strongly urge you to vote No on HB2152! The only people this bill benefits is the parasitic bail bonds industry which profits off of poor and largely Black & Brown Virginians being locked up pretrial. This bill is grossly shameful and will only harm those who are already the most systemically harmed & exploited.

Last Name: Kelly Harris-Braxton Organization: VIRGINIA FIRST CITIES COALITION Locality: City of Richmond

Virginia First Cities (VFC) supports HB 2017 because it is a program that reduces youthful contacts with the criminal justice system. Avoiding incarceration leads to better outcomes for children and removes the stigma of a criminal conviction. We support this novel diversionary program for non-violent youth because it focuses on restitution, rehabilitation, accountability, education, and competency building. As VFC promotes community wealth building for citizens and self-sufficiency, this program will help to ensure that a student’s record is not a barrier in their lives. A criminal record can be devastating to opportunities in education and employment.

HB2038 - Probation, revocation, and suspension of sentence; limitations on sentence, technical violation.
Last Name: Kanoyton Organization: VSC NAACP Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP support 2038

Last Name: Eugene Oliver Organization: Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Locality: Harrisonburg

My name is Eugene Oliver and I am President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. I was unable to sign up to speak for the evening session today, but wanted to express our support for the following bills and a brief reasoning as to why: HB 1936 - The Robbery statute as it is now is overly broad and could lead to life sentences for any amount of force combined with a larceny. By establishing degrees of robbery, this bill will lead to more equitable results and that the punishment received more accurately reflects the severity of the offense. HB 2038 - We believe it is important that individuals are not needlessly locked up on technical violations. We wholeheartedly support this bill as a fairer and more equitable way of handling probation violations and issues surrounding the suspension of sentences. HB 2047 - The current law is extremely restrictive as to when information about mental health can be introduced. By allowing mental health evidence when it goes to guilt or innocence or when it would otherwise be relevant as to a defendant's mental state. HB 2290 - In eliminating subsequent enhanced penalties on misdemeanor larcenies, this bill fixes an often seen unjust result where an individual picks up a jail sentence or a felony conviction for a de minimis theft or other larceny. By repealing 18.2-104 and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences or the possibility of a felony conviction, we would be allowing discretion to return in how courts treat these charges and avoiding excessive punishments for thefts that are deemed as non-felonious in their value. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our position on these bills and we ask that you support these bills and report them out of committee.

Last Name: McClure Locality: Moneta

I greatly oppose this bill. I am a full-time resident of Moneta and live directly on Smith Mountain Lake. I recently heard about House Bill #2083 and am deeply concerned at the total lack of knowledge and honesty involved in this process up to this point. I will get to all that at the end, but first I would like to let you know a little bit about our experience on the lake and with the sport of wakesurfing. Unfortunately, there was a lot of misinformation given during the initial committee hearing on January 18 and the meeting on January 20. There was also an article written in The Roanoke Times with the same incorrect facts. The article claims that “The boats try to get closer to the shore because more shallow water will allow them to create a better curl.” This is about as incorrect as can be, and the author of the article removed the quote after being informed of the error. The exact opposite is true because the boats will legitimately not function in shallow water. This misinformation has led to a lot of confusion and should have been addressed before the vote was cast in the meeting on January 20. My main concern with this bill being passed is the safety of those who enjoy wakesurfing. If this bill were to go into law, enjoying this sport would become dangerous at Smith Mountain Lake. Instead of being allowed to surf in areas of the lake with lower traffic, all these boats will be forced out to the main channel. The main channel, specifically on the weekends, is incredibly dangerous for any tow sports. Tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, etc. are all very unsafe to do in the main channel or wider areas of the lake. Those areas are extremely busy with boat traffic. Visitors to the lake can rent boats and jet skis with zero experience and whip around the lake however they please. Also, by taking away the ability to wakesurf safely on the lake, the economy of the lake will be negatively impacted. The boat dealerships that sell wakeboard boats will be hurt. The shops on the lake that sell wakesurf boards will be hurt. The places that hire summer employees to work there and to give wakesurf lessons will be hurt. The area around Smith Mountain Lake relies heavily on the summer business to build and maintain our local economy. Finally, during the meeting on January 20, Delegate Byron claimed that, “There is great support for this, all the lake owners want it. Bedford and Franklin want it as well.” Again, this is no where close to the truth. I was able to read through all the comments submitted to the committee before the meeting on January 20. Out of the 58 comments submitted on the subject, 4 were in support of the passage of the bill, and the other 54 were in opposition. This proves that there is a huge lack of support for this bill from the residents of Smith Mountain Lake.

Last Name: Ford Organization: Virginia Victim Assistance Network Locality: Richmond

Virginia Victim Assistance Network, an organization of all victim/witness advocate offices around the commonwealth. We serve over 75,000 victims of crime annually and is the only statewide nonprofit organization that provides services to any victim of any crime. VVAN opposes this legislation. While we are comforted by the exclusions included, we cannot ignore the other technical violations that would be impacted by this policy. Our victim/witness advocates have victims experience multiple calls and attempts to contact them from their offenders, some from recorded jail house phones. There are offenders who do not pay their restitution or do not complete VASAP. these are not new crimes but are technical violations that jeopardize victim safety and wellness. We would be happy to help the delegate craft a more surgical approach that can rectify the problems of probation violations without subjecting victims to to possibilities for more harm.

Last Name: Thayer Locality: Arlington

Virginia has the power and momentum to fix disparities in the criminal justice system and provide better support to communities. These bills will go a long way in addressing those and I encourage all to support them. HB 2038: Probation was originally intended to help people successfully transition from incarceration to the community, but has often served as a no-win situation that ensures their failure and return to prison. 51% of VA prison admissions were a result of parole or probation violations in 2016. 51%! Probation should be about helping people, not an excuse to further punish people trying to right their lives. Let’s get supervision conditions tailored to the individual and incentivize positive behavior and completion of recidivism-reducing programs. HB 2047: Leaning on the Stamper v. Commonwealth reasoning completely disrespects mentally ill Virginians and ignores everything we have learned in the 35 years since. Further, it violates an accused’s Constitutional right to a full-throated defense. Let’s enable juries to consider all the facts, including where mental health is relevant by supporting HB 2047. HB 2286: In Virginia, our pretrial system leads to people, especially poor people, being held unnecessarily for days before they can be released simply because they are not appointed a lawyer in a timely manner. By allowing/ensuring that individuals have an attorney when they first appear in front of a judge, bail can be considered immediately, in turn reducing additional and unnecessary time that a person - who has not been convicted - is being held in jail. That way people who aren’t a flight risk or a risk to themselves or others can return to their homes, reducing the overall negative impact on their lives. Pretrial detention costs the Commonwealth more money, and leads to 4x greater likelihood of being sentenced to jail, 3x longer jail sentences as well as 3x greater likelihood of being sentenced to prison, 2x longer prison sentences, and overall worse life outcomes. (NLADA, USAPP) Thank you very much for your consideration of these bills.

Last Name: Aguila Locality: Prince William county

I believe this bill is very important because there is dire need for limitations on probation violation sentencing. I didn’t pay much attention to the matter until I’ve seen how life changing this could be. My husband is currently incarcerated for a technical probation violation and was sentenced for 3 years at arlington county detention facility. He has 14 years of back up time for an armed robbery felony offense that he plead guilty to when he was 18. After serving his initial jail time of 4 years he rejoined society but with mental health issues. He battles with depression and anxiety and substance abuse. This substance abuse is what caused him to violate probation. He is no threat to society whatsoever. He has not committed any other crime after his felony. We have a 1 1/2 year old son together who he hasn’t held since he was 1 month old because his mental health and substance abuse wasn’t considered in his sentencing. 3 years of incarceration seems quite excessive to me for a technical violation. Incarceration for such a long period of time over a technical violation doesn’t solve anything. Instead of using resources to get addicts the help they need, giving them more incarceration time away from their families is a step in the wrong direction. Putting a limit on how much incarceration time can be given for a non criminal violation is exactly the kind of boundaries this legal system needs.

HB2047 - Criminal proceedings; consideration of mental condition and intellectual, etc.
Last Name: Fetter Locality: James City County

I write in strong support of this bill. Too many people with intellectual or developmental disabilities get caught up in the criminal justice system because, beyond an insanity plea, there is no way for the defense to submit evidence that would call the defendant's mens rea into question during the guilt phase of a trial in Virgnia. This does not give the jury a full picture of the defendant, and in many cases, it leads to the defendant being wrongfully convicted. This is a commonsense reform. We are behind the times in the Commonwealth relative to other states; that needs to change.

Last Name: Harrison Organization: LRIDD - Legal Reform for the Intellectually & Developmentally Disabled Locality: Midlothian

I speak in support of HB2047 both as the parent of an autistic young man who was caught up in the criminal justice system, and as Director of Communications for LRIDD - Legal Reform for the Intellectually & Developmentally Disabled. The court must be informed whether or not an individual has sufficient understanding of the charged offense. Expert testimony is a necessity if the goal is a fair outcome and true justice. Bail is crucial for ID/DD defendants. This vulnerable population is very limited in their ability to comprehend plea deals. Also, their mental state while incarcerated is much more likely to suffer greatly due to sensory overwhelm and anxiety that is common with developmental disabilities such as autism. Bail allows for necessary preparation and the assurance of due process.

Last Name: Kanoyton Organization: Virginia State Conference NAACP Locality: Hampton

The Virginia State Conference support HB 2047

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

The disproportionate percent of individuals with mental illness, individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or individuals with developmental disabilities, including autistic individuals in prisons and jails is not because they commit more crimes than other individuals. By not allowing information about their disabilities from the time they are accused of a crime, their rights are ignored either intentionally (if the disability is evident) or unintentionally for those whose disabilities are not as evident. Yes to this bill will provide a more just system where individuals are not wrongly convicted when they didn't have the mental state required for the charged offense and didn't understand their rights or the procedures and/or were easily manipulated into a plea agreement out of fear of something worse. Please pass this bill.

Last Name: Lloyd Organization: Richmond Raceway Locality: Henrico

On behalf of the Richmond Raceway, we want to express opposition to HB 2047 as introduced. While recognizing the issues behind the origin of the bill, as an large event venue, assigning direct liability for the actions taken by contractors, particularly on-duty or off-duty police officers providing security at our facility, will force us to rely on private contractors or other methods for event security. In conversations with our corporate risk management team, this direct liability would make the use of officers uninsurable. We look forward to working with Delegate Bourne and other stakeholders towards a more appropriate solution that allows for the continued use of police officers without the liability provisions created through this bill.

Last Name: Eugene Oliver Organization: Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Locality: Harrisonburg

My name is Eugene Oliver and I am President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. I was unable to sign up to speak for the evening session today, but wanted to express our support for the following bills and a brief reasoning as to why: HB 1936 - The Robbery statute as it is now is overly broad and could lead to life sentences for any amount of force combined with a larceny. By establishing degrees of robbery, this bill will lead to more equitable results and that the punishment received more accurately reflects the severity of the offense. HB 2038 - We believe it is important that individuals are not needlessly locked up on technical violations. We wholeheartedly support this bill as a fairer and more equitable way of handling probation violations and issues surrounding the suspension of sentences. HB 2047 - The current law is extremely restrictive as to when information about mental health can be introduced. By allowing mental health evidence when it goes to guilt or innocence or when it would otherwise be relevant as to a defendant's mental state. HB 2290 - In eliminating subsequent enhanced penalties on misdemeanor larcenies, this bill fixes an often seen unjust result where an individual picks up a jail sentence or a felony conviction for a de minimis theft or other larceny. By repealing 18.2-104 and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences or the possibility of a felony conviction, we would be allowing discretion to return in how courts treat these charges and avoiding excessive punishments for thefts that are deemed as non-felonious in their value. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our position on these bills and we ask that you support these bills and report them out of committee.

Last Name: Thayer Locality: Arlington

Virginia has the power and momentum to fix disparities in the criminal justice system and provide better support to communities. These bills will go a long way in addressing those and I encourage all to support them. HB 2038: Probation was originally intended to help people successfully transition from incarceration to the community, but has often served as a no-win situation that ensures their failure and return to prison. 51% of VA prison admissions were a result of parole or probation violations in 2016. 51%! Probation should be about helping people, not an excuse to further punish people trying to right their lives. Let’s get supervision conditions tailored to the individual and incentivize positive behavior and completion of recidivism-reducing programs. HB 2047: Leaning on the Stamper v. Commonwealth reasoning completely disrespects mentally ill Virginians and ignores everything we have learned in the 35 years since. Further, it violates an accused’s Constitutional right to a full-throated defense. Let’s enable juries to consider all the facts, including where mental health is relevant by supporting HB 2047. HB 2286: In Virginia, our pretrial system leads to people, especially poor people, being held unnecessarily for days before they can be released simply because they are not appointed a lawyer in a timely manner. By allowing/ensuring that individuals have an attorney when they first appear in front of a judge, bail can be considered immediately, in turn reducing additional and unnecessary time that a person - who has not been convicted - is being held in jail. That way people who aren’t a flight risk or a risk to themselves or others can return to their homes, reducing the overall negative impact on their lives. Pretrial detention costs the Commonwealth more money, and leads to 4x greater likelihood of being sentenced to jail, 3x longer jail sentences as well as 3x greater likelihood of being sentenced to prison, 2x longer prison sentences, and overall worse life outcomes. (NLADA, USAPP) Thank you very much for your consideration of these bills.

Last Name: Champion Organization: Virginia Autism Project Locality: FAIRFAx

Please support HB 2047. We will be seeing more and more individuals with a diagnosis of Autism as they age into adulthood. Please allow this information to be presented to the Courts and the Judges and the Commonwealth attorney to consider. The cute 6 years olds we see today in our 1/38 population of an autism diagnosis will be adults in Virginia without social service supports and necessary medical and mental health supports. Please don't keep punishing them for their mental health and medical condition they can't control. Thank you, Teresa L. Champion, Virginia Autism Project.

Last Name: Harrison Organization: LRIDD Legal Reform for the Intellectually & Developmentally Disabled Locality: Chesterfield County

Intellectual and developmental disabilities exist within all races and socioeconomic levels. The deficits in communication and social awareness significantly impairs the mental state required to grasp criminal proceedings. Certainly, bail is necessary to educate and prepare the defendant for court. Not to mention the impact that being held in jail has on those with the sensory issues that typically accompany a developmental disability such as autism. I am in support of this bill as both a parent of an autistic son who did not have benefit of a bill such as HB2047, and also as Director of Communications for LRIDD. My son's experiences incarcerated have left him a diagnosis of PTSD that he now struggles with daily.

Last Name: Beadnell Organization: The Arc of Northern Virginia Locality: Arlington

The Arc of Northern Virginia strongly supports this bill. We frequently get contacts from families torn apart when a loved one with a developmental disability is charged with a crime, often stemming directly from challenges the person has related to their disability. This bill would allow that role that disability played in any illegal actions to be considered, which would be both the ethical thing to do and keep with the spirit of a justice system intent on actual fairness and justice.

Last Name: Kelmar Organization: Legal Reform for Intellectually and Developmentally Disabled (LRIDD) Locality: Richmond

My name is Brian Kelmar. I am the Chairman of national nonprofit profit called (LRIDD) Legal Reform for people with Intellectual and Developmentally disabled based here in VA. We represent families here in Virginia and throughout the country who have similar stories like my autistic son whose life has been destroyed in the criminal justice system. People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are up to 7 times more likely to be caught up in criminal justice, yet no evidence suggest they commit crime at a higher rate than the general population. Virginia has worked hard to eliminate mental institutions, but instead of providing supports for mental illness and developmental disabilities we have filled the void with prisons. Unfortunately, we are of the leading states in the nation for a school to prison pipeline for the developmentally disabled and even worse for persons of color with a disability. We allow mental illness and drug abuse to be considered in the criminal justice system, but we do not consider developmental disabilities. Developmentally disabled should be allowed equality under the law as set by the American Disabilities Act. The courts should be allowed the opportunity to hear all the information for each person’s particular case throughout the criminal justice process. One size does not fit all. We support this bill.

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

Please support HB2047 to make the criminal justice system more just. Not allowing an individuals "invisible" disabilities to be considered throughout the process has allowed grave injustices to occur. Autistic individuals, individuals with intellectual disabilities and individuals experiencing mental health issues are over-represented in jails and prisons. Prison has been referred to as the largest mental health facility - not because people receive appropriate treatment, but because mentally ill people, unable to defend themselves due to their mental illness are ripe for exploitation by overzealous Law Enforcement Officers and Prosecutors. While the U.S. Census reports that one in 5 Americans (20 percent) have a disability, the Bureau of Justice found that 32 percent of federal prisoners and 40 percent of jail inmates report at least one disability. https://ldaamerica.org/lda_today/disability-and-criminal-justice-reform/ This report also indicated that people with disabilities are twice as likely to be victims of crime than people without disabilities. A third to a half of all use-of-force incidents with police involve a disabled civilian. Individuals with disabilities are being criminalized rather than supported. This bill will help change this. This doesn't mean disabled individuals will be given a free pass, it just means that consideration of the impact of their disability on their actions, their capacity to give consent for questioning, their ability to understand the ramifications of plea agreements, and their intent will be considered.

Last Name: McConnell Organization: Law Professor, University of RIchmond School of Law Locality: Richmond

HB 2047 would go a long way towards promoting equity and fairness in proceedings involving a defendant with intellectual or mental disabilities. As it stands now, the only time this gets consideration is either at sentencing or in negotiations with prosecutors when the defense attorney is diligently investigating the case and obtains documentation of intellectual disability or mental illness that they take to the prosecutor to advocate for leniency. If the defense attorney doesn't do their due diligence, which they sometimes do not given the incredibly low rate of compensation for court-appointed cases, or if the prosecutor is not interested in the mitigation, then it has no impact on the outcome. This bill would help reduce the arbitrariness inherent in a system that does not include diminished capacity as a defense, as many other states do. Thank you.

Last Name: Kelly Organization: MPAC Locality: Baltimore

CURRENT VIRGINIA LAW prohibits arrest or prosecution of certain drug-related offenses only to an individual who seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for himself or another individual or who is experiencing an overdose when another individual seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for him. HB 1821 expands these protections to include prohibiting arrest and prosecution of other individuals, acting in good faith, who render medical assistance during an overdose. This bill will allow individuals who need assistance with advocating for special services for treatment versus being incarcerated and not getting the help that is needed. The system needs to understand that information and knowledge of resources about overdose awareness is vital to the community at large.

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

If we intend for the criminal justice system to be "just" and fair, there must be consideration of an individual's mental health/ mental illness and the presence of diagnoses or conditions that impact brain function - including intellectual and developmental disabilities (including autism). This must be considered at every step of the process from the first time the police communicate with the individual. The system becomes an "injustice system" when individuals with impaired cognitive, reasoning, executive functioning, emotional regulation abilities are assumed to be fully competent to give informed consent, to understand the proceedings, to understand and respond to questions, including those that are meant to manipulate and/or coerce. There are way too many instances of ruined lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens from overzealous prosecution of offenses the individuals either didn't commit, didn't intentionally commit, or didn't realize were against the law. The statistics of the percentage of incarcerated individuals who are mentally ill and/or autistic and/or are intellectually disabled are shocking and shameful. Please pass this bill. Thank you. Beth Tolley

HB2056 - Status offenders; willful and material violation of court order or terms of probation.
Last Name: Kanoyton Organization: VSC NAACP Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in support of HB 2056

Last Name: Kanoyton Organization: VSC NAACP Locality: Hampton

VSC NAACP are in support of HB 2056

Last Name: Hopkins Organization: Rights4Girls Locality: DC

Dear Chair Herring and honorable members of the committee, my name is Cherice Hopkins, and I’m Senior Counsel at Rights4Girls, a human rights organization dedicated to defending the rights of vulnerable girls through advocacy, coalition-building, public awareness campaigns, research, and training and technical assistance. We have worked to shed light on the widespread criminalization of survivors of gendered violence, particularly girls of color, through the publication of reports like The Sexual Abuse to Prison Pipeline: The Girls’ Story. Today we submit testimony to urge you to pass HB 2056, which takes a critical step in bringing Virginia’s laws in line with the latest research and providing a trauma-informed response to children touched by Virginia’s juvenile justice system by eliminating the Valid Court Order (VCO) exception. As advocates who work at the intersection of race, gender, violence and justice-involvement, we strongly urge Virginia to follow the lead of the majority of states and deinstitutionalize status offenders by eliminating the VCO loophole. Research is clear that detaining children for these non-serious behaviors is harmful and leads to future justice-involvement. Also, it is not a cost-effective measure to deal with issues like skipping school. Research shows that sexual abuse is a primary predictor of girls’ justice system involvement. Nationally, 73% of girls behind bars experienced sexual or physical abuse before entering the system, but in some states, the rates are even higher. When examining these high rates of trauma together with the most common offenses for girls, it is clear that girls are being criminalized because of their abuse. The most common offenses for girls include the status offenses of running away and truancy—behaviors that are strongly correlated with trauma. The limited data available on girls in Virginia’s juvenile justice system suggests that Virginia girls are being impacted by the abuse to prison pipeline. For example, girls in Virginia are overrepresented among status offenders (e.g., in 2017 girls comprised 61.5% of runaway complaints compared to boys who comprised 38.5%). In addition, racial disparities cannot be ignored as Black girls were significantly overrepresented among girls in the system. Research shows that when vulnerable and marginalized girls experience abuse and trauma, they often lack access to support services and vital interventions needed for their safety and wellbeing, consequently forcing them to take their protection into their own hands. This often results in avoidant or escapist behavior commonly associated with status offenses, particularly the offenses of truancy and running away. The appropriate response is to seek to address the underlying cause of such behavior—not criminalize and confine young girls for seeking to escape abuse and trauma. We urge the committee to help bring Virginia up to date with the latest research and findings on at-risk youth and system involvement. Eliminating this exception is in keeping with Virginia’s recent work with the National Governor’s Association to expand trauma-informed responses throughout the Commonwealth. Virginia cannot be trauma-informed if it continues practices proven to harm young people—a practice already eliminated in 32 states. Therefore, passing HB 2056 is vitally important to advancing Virginia’s efforts to protect survivors of violence and vulnerable children. Thank you.

Last Name: Dorritie Organization: William & Mary Law School Criminal Law Society Locality: Williamsburg, Virginia

Dear Delegates, I am writing in support of HB 2056 as a representative of William & Mary Law School's Criminal Law Society. Our organization strongly supports ending the use of the valid court order (VCO) exception because no child should face imprisonment for status offenses such as skipping school, running away from home, or violating curfew. As evidenced by the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act of 2015, there exists national bipartisan support for ending the use of the VCO exception, and the time has come to implement this change in the Commonwealth of Virginia. HB 2056 would improve outcomes for Virginia’s youth. According to the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), imprisoning children—including those in violation of status offenses—increases their chances of reentering the criminal justice system later in life; probability of reentry rises with a child’s frequency of incarceration. Additionally, per Virginia’s Department of Juvenile Justice, the Commonwealth’s three-year reconviction rate for children committed and released from juvenile prison is approximately seventy-four percent, and a child’s probability of arrest for a future crime increases by nearly thirty-three percent for every year spent in a youth prison in Virginia. Simply put, incarceration has the opposite effect of encouraging recidivism. Incarceration is also costly. According to JPI, Virginia spends more than $400 per day to confine children, for a total of approximately $150,000 per child annually. More importantly, incarceration neither teaches children how to become law-abiding citizens, nor provides them with adequate services to properly address the underlying causes of the initial offenses. Instead, children need community- and family-based services, as these services have proven more effective in preventing children from re-engaging with the criminal justice system than incarceration and reduce the state’s overall costs. For example, Multisystemic Therapy, an intensive community- and family-based intervention program, reduces recidivism rates in children up to seventy percent and provides the state with a rate of return on investment of sixty-two percent. We reiterate our avid support for HB 2056 and humbly urge you to consider ending the VCO exception in our great Commonwealth. We appreciate your consideration on this matter. Sincerely, Matt Dorritie (on behalf of William & Mary Law School's Criminal Law Society)

Last Name: Tolley Locality: Henrico

Please pass HB2056 to end the use of the valid court order exception in Virginia. 32 states have already eliminated the practice of locking up children for noncriminal behavior. It is shocking that this is how Virginia responds to youth in need, to these marginalized, vulnerable citizens. Research shows that the longer a child is incarcerated, the greater the likelihood the child will be further involved in the justice system, the less likely that child is to graduate from high school and the likelihood the child will get a good job is also diminished significantly. There has been a great deal of effort made in Virginia to comply with the JJDP Act, that specifically requires states that receive federal juvenile justice dollars to stop locking up status offenders. But the only way to truly comply with the Act is to end the use of the valid court order exception all together. Hundreds of Virginia youths per year (2017-2019) have been locked up using the VCO; children/youth who needed services, support, supervision - not incarceration. We must increase access to services and stop locking up our children when their behaviors demonstrate to us that they are in great need. Thank you.

Last Name: Silcox Organization: RISE for Youth Locality: Richmond

RISE for Youth supports this bill and urges members of the Courts of Justice Committee to act favorably on HB 2056. We must prevent youth from being incarcerated for minor status offenses (like running away from home or skipping school). Incarceration is not an effective treatment and only further traumatizes our youth.

Last Name: Bridgham Locality: Virginia Beach

We need a way to stop this online predators in our community.

Last Name: Lambert Organization: Roanoke Community Bail Fund Locality: Salem

I strongly urge you to vote No on HB2152! The only people this bill benefits is the parasitic bail bonds industry which profits off of poor and largely Black & Brown Virginians being locked up pretrial. This bill is grossly shameful and will only harm those who are already the most systemically harmed & exploited.

Last Name: Johnson Locality: Virginia Beach

There are so many men incarcerated right now who have turned they life’s around while being in there. Their families need them. They have done their time, stayed out of trouble and are ready to come out good citizens. My fiancé has already spent 10 years in there, he has done all of his jail time, he is now doing his probation violation time. He has taken classes and helped with the younger prisoner to help them with their train of thought. He has family dying left and right. He hasn’t seen his kids or is mother in years. His kids need him, his mother needs him, I need him home. He’s been very productive while inside their. He has wrote three books and one is already published. Some men can make a change for the better. Give these men a chance to come out and be a help to their families, the communities and themselves.

Last Name: Walters Organization: Legal Aid Justice Center Locality: Charlottesville

The Legal Aid Justice Center supports HB2056.

Last Name: Stephens Organization: Incarcerated Lives Matter VA Locality: Stafford

I support all the bills selected

Last Name: McConnell Organization: Law Professor, University of Richmond School of Law Locality: City of Richmond

I very much support this legislation. It is line with the recommendations of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Locking kids up on status offenses is a terrible idea, but something we do a lot in certain jurisdictions. Kids who are running away or missing school need a very different kind of intervention than detention. It is a short-sighted response, which is not evidence-based, just hardens kids, and keeps us from addressing the root causes of their behavior. All it does is temporarily interrupt the cycle, but it rarely does anything to improve the situation. The juvenile justice system is not very creative in this regard. If a kid is not attending school regularly, putting them in detention only further separates them from school. It is hard for young people to re-integrate into a regular school after being in detention for ten days. Additionally, kids who run away are usually doing so for very good reasons. We need to provide intensive family therapy in these situations to address the conflict or safety threat in the home so that the home is a supportive environment that the child does not need to escape.

Last Name: Kelly Organization: MPAC Locality: Baltimore

CURRENT VIRGINIA LAW prohibits arrest or prosecution of certain drug-related offenses only to an individual who seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for himself or another individual or who is experiencing an overdose when another individual seeks or obtains emergency medical attention for him. HB 1821 expands these protections to include prohibiting arrest and prosecution of other individuals, acting in good faith, who render medical assistance during an overdose. This bill will allow individuals who need assistance with advocating for special services for treatment versus being incarcerated and not getting the help that is needed. The system needs to understand that information and knowledge of resources about overdose awareness is vital to the community at large.

Last Name: Brennan Locality: Berlin

Sir, ma’am, my loved one, who is serving virtual life for a single robbery charge no one was seriously hurt, deserves a second look, a second chance. He is a hard working individual, who has shown nothing but well behavior the last 11 years and 9 months of his incarceration. Now he is serving a 215 year sentence in Virginia. He has a strong and loving support system outside and an excellent work ethic. Members of the General Assembly, I urge you to think of families like mine and and make sure those already behind bars benefit from the changes you will hopefully vote for. Many of them earned a fair chance of a life outside those walls. We ask you to end mandatory minimums and harsh sentencing practices. We ask you to bring back parole and allow second chances for those who have shown they deserve it. We need to invest in evidence-based criminal justice policies, because international collected data over decades are already showing why our system is still failing to help make anyone safer. We need appropriate sentences rather than out of context punishments. We need to get past these destructive practices. We need to stop hurting our own society. And we need to start give second chances, also for violent crimes. Studies show that harsh and overly long sentences do not deter or reduce crime. These laws cost us millions of dollars but don't make us safer. My family, friends and I ask you to vote for criminal justice reform and bring Virginia forward. Thank you for your time! Dilek Brennan

Last Name: Turner Organization: Valley Justice Coalition Locality: Harrisonburg

I am in support of the previously indicated bills. Virginia has long promoted mass incarceration through its policies regarding those accused/convicted of crimes. Please consider these in the interest of moving Virginia forward. Thank you.

HB2234 - Victims of sex trafficking; affirmative defense to prosecution for certain offenses.
No Comments Available
HB2236 - Behavioral health docket; transfer of supervision.
Last Name: Bridgham Locality: Virginia Beach

We need a way to stop this online predators in our community.

Last Name: Lambert Organization: Roanoke Community Bail Fund Locality: Salem

I strongly urge you to vote No on HB2152! The only people this bill benefits is the parasitic bail bonds industry which profits off of poor and largely Black & Brown Virginians being locked up pretrial. This bill is grossly shameful and will only harm those who are already the most systemically harmed & exploited.

HB2254 - Unlawful dissemination of unsolicited obscene image of self to another; penalty.
Last Name: Bridgham Locality: Virginia Beach

We need a way to stop this online predators in our community.

Last Name: Lambert Organization: Roanoke Community Bail Fund Locality: Salem

I strongly urge you to vote No on HB2152! The only people this bill benefits is the parasitic bail bonds industry which profits off of poor and largely Black & Brown Virginians being locked up pretrial. This bill is grossly shameful and will only harm those who are already the most systemically harmed & exploited.

Last Name: Morales Locality: Hampton

I absolutely support this legislation. I’m the one who brought the issue to the Delegate for possible action. About a year ago, I posted on my local real estate professionals Facebook group about a local contractor I barely knew having texted me a gross unsolicited photo of male anatomy and my frustration that it seemed I had no recourse for addressing it. I was not at all surprised to discover, from the comments and from private messages, that many other women in that group had dealt with the same behavior, and far worse, from this man and from many others, just as I had over the years. To my frustration, when I tried to file charges against the man I posted about, I kept hitting dead ends, with law enforcement and magistrates office officials telling me their hands were tied. As a woman, unfortunately, receipt of such unsolicited material via text messages, Facebook messages, etc is not uncommon. In my opinion, such behavior is an act of aggression that must be met with an ability for the victim to impose legal consequences. Thanks for taking this issue seriously and letting me share my experience.

HB2286 - Court appearance of a person not free on bail; changes to provisions regarding bail hearings, etc.
Last Name: Cloud Organization: Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia Locality: Fairfax County

Students for Equity and Reform for Virginia is made up of University of Virginia students from across the state who would like to voice our support for this bill. Absence of pretrial services leads to outcomes that favor prosecution, not the people. As our state representatives, you have the imperative to make sure the law is applied fairly and protects the people you serve. For too long, Virginia has enforced policies that disproportionately impact people of color and poorer communities by not giving them a fair chance to defend themselves in court.

Last Name: Cloud Organization: Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia Locality: Fairfax County

The American Bar Association states that in order to have a meaningful first appearance in court, a judge, commonwealth representative, counsel for the defendant, and pretrial services must be included. Without legal counsel, defendants often end up having to plead their own case for why they shouldn’t be jailed pre-trial. Without pretrial services, no investigation is put into evaluating the price at which bond should be set, and no investigation into how much of a risk the defendant is to the community is made. Absence of pretrial services leads to outcomes that favor prosecution, not the people. As our state representatives, you have the imperative to make sure the law is applied fairly and protects the people you serve. For too long, Virginia has enforced policies that disproportionately impact people of color and poorer communities by not giving them a fair chance to defend themselves in court. Voting in favor of this bill would mean those who don’t have the means and privilege to adequately defend themselves would no longer slip through the cracks of the court system. By enacting a more comprehensive system of pretrial services, you will ensure defendants get a fair chance to speak with affordable counsel before arraignment. In the spirit of equity and fairness, we ask that you vote in favor of HB 2286, so every defendant who enters a courtroom may have a meaningful first appearance in front of their judge. -Students for Equity and Reform in Virginia (SERV) Tessa Danehy, President Hayden Ratliff, Dhruv Rungta, Kristin O’Donoghue, Alexandra Hartman, Patrick Cloud, Madeleine Green, Cole Davidson, Austin McNichols, Priya Viswanathan, Ciara Tisdale-Vakos, Theresa Ho, Neha Krishnakumar, Hayes Miller, Gabby Jefferson, Sona Kalatardi, Jack Melman-Rogers, Stella Banino

Last Name: Thayer Locality: Arlington

Virginia has the power and momentum to fix disparities in the criminal justice system and provide better support to communities. These bills will go a long way in addressing those and I encourage all to support them. HB 2038: Probation was originally intended to help people successfully transition from incarceration to the community, but has often served as a no-win situation that ensures their failure and return to prison. 51% of VA prison admissions were a result of parole or probation violations in 2016. 51%! Probation should be about helping people, not an excuse to further punish people trying to right their lives. Let’s get supervision conditions tailored to the individual and incentivize positive behavior and completion of recidivism-reducing programs. HB 2047: Leaning on the Stamper v. Commonwealth reasoning completely disrespects mentally ill Virginians and ignores everything we have learned in the 35 years since. Further, it violates an accused’s Constitutional right to a full-throated defense. Let’s enable juries to consider all the facts, including where mental health is relevant by supporting HB 2047. HB 2286: In Virginia, our pretrial system leads to people, especially poor people, being held unnecessarily for days before they can be released simply because they are not appointed a lawyer in a timely manner. By allowing/ensuring that individuals have an attorney when they first appear in front of a judge, bail can be considered immediately, in turn reducing additional and unnecessary time that a person - who has not been convicted - is being held in jail. That way people who aren’t a flight risk or a risk to themselves or others can return to their homes, reducing the overall negative impact on their lives. Pretrial detention costs the Commonwealth more money, and leads to 4x greater likelihood of being sentenced to jail, 3x longer jail sentences as well as 3x greater likelihood of being sentenced to prison, 2x longer prison sentences, and overall worse life outcomes. (NLADA, USAPP) Thank you very much for your consideration of these bills.

HB2290 - Larceny; repeals punishment for conviction of second or subsequent misdemeanor.
Last Name: Baker Organization: Virginia Retail Federation Locality: Norfolk

Virginia Retail Federation opposes HB 2290. Virginia Retail Federation represents retail both large and small across the Commonwealth. As you are aware, over the last few years the threshold for felony larceny has been raised twice, and is now at $1000. Our concern with HB 2290 is with regard to habitual offenders and organized retail crime. We have concern that by repealing punishment for conviction of second or subsequent misdemeanor for larceny offences, that it may impede a retailer’s ability to go after those that are wrapped up in organized retail crime ring. It is for these reasons that we ask you to vote no on HB2290.

Last Name: Eugene Oliver Organization: Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Locality: Harrisonburg

My name is Eugene Oliver and I am President of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. I was unable to sign up to speak for the evening session today, but wanted to express our support for the following bills and a brief reasoning as to why: HB 1936 - The Robbery statute as it is now is overly broad and could lead to life sentences for any amount of force combined with a larceny. By establishing degrees of robbery, this bill will lead to more equitable results and that the punishment received more accurately reflects the severity of the offense. HB 2038 - We believe it is important that individuals are not needlessly locked up on technical violations. We wholeheartedly support this bill as a fairer and more equitable way of handling probation violations and issues surrounding the suspension of sentences. HB 2047 - The current law is extremely restrictive as to when information about mental health can be introduced. By allowing mental health evidence when it goes to guilt or innocence or when it would otherwise be relevant as to a defendant's mental state. HB 2290 - In eliminating subsequent enhanced penalties on misdemeanor larcenies, this bill fixes an often seen unjust result where an individual picks up a jail sentence or a felony conviction for a de minimis theft or other larceny. By repealing 18.2-104 and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences or the possibility of a felony conviction, we would be allowing discretion to return in how courts treat these charges and avoiding excessive punishments for thefts that are deemed as non-felonious in their value. Thank you in advance for your consideration of our position on these bills and we ask that you support these bills and report them out of committee.

End of Comments