Public Comments for 01/29/2021 Courts of Justice
HB1801 - Disposing of litter; penalty.
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Last Name: Lowe Locality: Ruschlikon

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Last Name: Mahaney Locality: Midlothian

H.B.1801--increasing the fine so substantially will place unmanageable burdens on the poor and struggling population. Community service (picking up litter) is a much better solution to the problem and individuals can perform it where transportation is not a burden. H.B. 2047 - the entire circumstances surrounding a crime need to be investigated - some may call for mental health assistance vs. incarceration. There must be discretion used. H.B. 2258 - another bureaucratic nightmare? another registry? Are they really effective? Studies would indicate they are not. H.B. 2303 - the disparate impact of current drug laws among communities of color needs to change. This has led to an severe mass incarceration problem. We have got to redirect our efforts as a society to rehabilitating and assisting unacceptable behaviors versus thinking additional laws (and subsequently incarceration) are the answer. Empirical studies have shown this to be a very ineffective way of deterring criminal behavior, all the while destroying families and perpetuating the problem. It's time for a paradigm shift.

HB1856 - Estate planning documents; electronic execution, definitions, codifies Uniform Electronic Wills Act.
No Comments Available
HB2010 - Earned sentence credits; rate at which sentence rates may be earned, prerequisites.
Last Name: Mahaney Locality: Midlothian

H.B.1801--increasing the fine so substantially will place unmanageable burdens on the poor and struggling population. Community service (picking up litter) is a much better solution to the problem and individuals can perform it where transportation is not a burden. H.B. 2047 - the entire circumstances surrounding a crime need to be investigated - some may call for mental health assistance vs. incarceration. There must be discretion used. H.B. 2258 - another bureaucratic nightmare? another registry? Are they really effective? Studies would indicate they are not. H.B. 2303 - the disparate impact of current drug laws among communities of color needs to change. This has led to an severe mass incarceration problem. We have got to redirect our efforts as a society to rehabilitating and assisting unacceptable behaviors versus thinking additional laws (and subsequently incarceration) are the answer. Empirical studies have shown this to be a very ineffective way of deterring criminal behavior, all the while destroying families and perpetuating the problem. It's time for a paradigm shift.

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. 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

HB2064 - Recording an electronic document; electronic notarial certificate.
Last Name: Haas Organization: Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence Locality: Richmond

I'd like to be added to the que to speak

HB2168 - Illegal gambling; skill games, enforcement by localities and Attorney General, civil penalty.
Last Name: WILLIAMS Organization: Virginia Fraternal Order of Police Locality: Chesapeake

We support this bill. Please consider passing HB 2168

HB2193 - Settlement agreements; staying of dismissal.
Last Name: Ashshowwaf Organization: Reyets Locality: Loudon

We urge that you adopt a state law that denies qualified immunity & holds police accountable.

Last Name: Speer Organization: Virginia Poverty Law Center Locality: Richmond

We are concerned about lines 24-26. What does “other appropriate relief” mean? We suggest the following amendment : Delete "other appropriate relief" and insert through entry of judgment for entry of judgment for any remaining amount owed under the written settlement agreement.

HB2331 - Mandatory minimum sentences; elimination, modification of sentence to mandatory minimum term.
Last Name: Turner Locality: Harrisonburg

Dear Delegates; We are writing you in support of HB2331 Repeal Mandatory Minimums, patron Del Mullen. We strongly support the ability of those convicted before July 1, 2021 who were not convicted of a Class 1 Felony or sentenced to a life sentence, to be able to petition the circuit court that entered the original judgment to have their sentence suspended, be placed on probation or in some way have their sentences mitigated. Repealing the sentence does not mean we are reducing the potential for severe punishment; it simply means we are returning the sentencing decision to the judge where it rightfully belongs. Mandatory minimums do not deter crime. People are not deterred by something they do not know exists. They do not reduce drug use or addiction and they are racist. Over 30 states have reformed or repealed their mandatory minimum sentences in the past two decades while maintaining public safety. In 2017, the first 6 months after repealing mandatory minimums in Louisiana, the state saved $12 million. President-elect Biden supports repeal of mandatory minimums. He will work for the passage of legislation to repeal mandatory minimums at the federal level. And, he will give states incentives to repeal their mandatory minimums. Virginia supports the repeal of mandatory minimums. The Virginia Crime Commission overwhelmingly supported the repeal of mandatory minimums plus a route to mitigation of sentences for those already serving sentences under these burdensome laws. Please support the repeal of ALL mandatory minimums in Virginia and allow those already serving a mandatory minimum a route to mitigate their sentences through the courts. Thank you. Gary and Debra Turner

Last Name: Gebriel Organization: FAMM Locality: Montgomery County

My name is Tinsae Gebriel, and I’m submitting this written statement on behalf of FAMM. FAMM supports this bill. Eliminating mandatory minimums would ensure that judges, who are selected by the General Assembly and informed by sentencing guidelines, would be able to consider all relevant facts and circumstances about the case and the defendant and decide appropriate sentences. Years of research shows that mandatory minimums do reduce or deter crime. But they do impact communities of color disproportionately. The only aspect of this bill that falls short in our views is that it doesn’t repeal all mandatory minimum sentences, as recommended by the crime commission. We believe that judges should have the authority to consider all the relevant facts and circumstances in every case before imposing a fair punishment. Thank you for considering my views.

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

Virginia Victim Assistance Network supports this legislation. We represent victim/witness advocate offices around the commonwealth and serve over 75,000 victims of crime annually in Virginia. VVAN understands both victims and their offenders suffer if a broken process denies their fundamental right to justice. This bill is crafted balancing both victim concerns and smart criminal justice reform. We urge you to support this bill.

Last Name: Harris Organization: Mothers Against Drunk Driving Locality: Fairfax City

Mothers Against Drunk Driving would like strongly opposes any effort to eliminate mandatory minimums in any cases relating to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Drunk and drug-impaired driving is a violent crime that is 100 percent preventable. Any legislation that eliminates minimum accountability standards for drunk or drugged drivers belittles the seriousness of this violent crime. In advancing criminal justice reform, please keep in my mind the Rights of Victims of drunk and drug-impaired driving.

Last Name: Nance Organization: Sistas in Prison Reform Locality: Henrico

While there has been a lot of great strides in criminal justice in Virginia for the past year, we cannot lose momentum in the fight against mass incarceration. To continue having a more fair and equitable criminal justice system, Mandatory Minimums in Virginia must end. In addition, the updated policy must allow those already sentenced and serving time behind bars receive reconsideration for excessive sentences. Having mandatory minimums in the Virginia laws do not allow judges or juries to do their jobs by hearing cases and facts, as they do not have the power to go against Virginia laws of time that MUST be served if convicted of specific crimes. PLEASE consider updating the bill to include ALL or more offenses to repeal mandatory minimums. There are many more MMs that deserve to be repealed other than drug offenses. The Virginia Crime Commission concluded in their study that Use of a Firearm was the second most incarcerated mandatory minimum, and 83% of current state-responsible inmates are serving time for only 10 mandatory minimums. I urge you all to strongly consider the disproportionate amount of sentences for these crimes. Like drug charges, firearm charges do not justify whether or not someone was hurt, nor that a person is violent. We must repeal this mandatory minimum to allow cases to be heard, and sentences to be given appropriately. Thank you

Last Name: Amoriello Locality: South Boston

I support to abolish mandatory minimum sentences.

Last Name: Hall Locality: Tazewell Co Virginia

Each person situation is different and should be sentenced accordingly. Maybe broaden and / or resentance. Mandatory minimums are not carried out for informants based on drug charges therefore it should not be in place for individuals who are not. Possibly left in place for serial killers murders pedophiles and should be based also on life expectancy or Children and families the crime/crimes effected.

Last Name: nicholls Locality: chesapeake

We can't trust judges to act in our best interests. I do not support this bill.

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

Hello, Delegates; We are writing to ask you to please vote YES for HB2331 Repeal Mandatory Minimums. Repealing the mandatory minimums does not mean we are reducing the potential for severe punishment; it simply means we are returning the sentencing decision to the judge where it rightfully belongs. The judge knows the circumstances of each case and can make the sentence more punitive or more lenient based on circumstances only the judge will be aware of. Please expand the bill to include more of the mandatory sentences and find a way to re-sentence those already serving excessively long mandatory minimum sentences. The economic savings to the State of Virginia from incarcerating a prisoner who is not a threat to public safety for a shorter period of time would be substantial. Please, vote YES for HB2331 Repeal Mandatory Minimums. Thank you.

Last Name: BRUMMEL Locality: Courtland

I am writing you to say that ALL mandatory minimum need to be lifted for ALL of those who have been or will be sentanced to a mandatory minimum. Each case is different, and should be treated differently, a mandatory minimum does NOT prove anything but heartbreak for us on the outside and gives no hope for those on the inside . It proves nothing to MAKE someone sit behind bars for a mandatory time instead of fixing them and their problems. My fiance is awaiting sentencing and is facing a mandatory minimum of at least 5 years (He is in unfortunately for 18.2-374.1:1.) He is WILLING for treatment, wants to get help NOW and serving a mandatory 5 years is not going to get him the help he WANTS and NEEDS. Not all cases are the same and should not be treated the same. Please consider revising this and lift mandatory minimum for ALL .

Last Name: Mcdowney Locality: King George

I will love to testify in favor of this bill HB2331 I believe that Virginia needs to do away with the mandatory minimums this bill is very personal to me because my husband and son is under the mandatory minimums for gun and drug charges. The length of time that they were given affected our family in a very emotional way. The time that some of our love ones are given because of mandatory minimums are unfair and lengthy sentences because of the time that they have ahead of them they take plea deals and that is like getting a deal from the devil so please consider voting in favor of this bill to give so many chances in which Everyone deserves a second chance.

Last Name: Green Locality: Covington

Chairman and Members of this Committee, I agree with eliminating mandatory minimums. These laws have put persons in jail who do not belong there.

End of Comments