Home Crime Virginia Senate Democrats Present Justice Reform and Equity Proposals

Virginia Senate Democrats Present Justice Reform and Equity Proposals


From the VA Senate Democratic Caucus:


RICHMOND – Today, Senate Democrats presented their justice reform and equity proposals. This comes after last week’s unveiling of Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke’s police reform package. A recording of today’s press conference is available here. The bills that were announced this week include efforts to address sentencing reform, prison reform, courts’ and prosecutorial leniency, expungement, racial profiling in traffic stops, local authority to establish civilian review boards and mental health crisis response teams, and powers of the Attorney General’s office to investigate police misconduct.

As Senator Locke pointed out in her column printed in the Virginian-Pilot this week, “The cries for police and justice reform are not unfamiliar to many of us, but the current call for action is one that we cannot ignore. Citizens are demanding policy solutions, not momentary action.”

In his closing remarks during today’s press event, Senate Democratic Caucus Vice Chair and Ad Hoc Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chair Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon) said, “Our package is more focused on the entire system and not just policing. We have a critical opportunity and an historic opportunity to correct a lot of the historical wrongs that have been going on in this state for hundreds of years that’s been presented to us and handed to us right now. Our Caucus as a group is looking forward to making history with both the House Caucus and the Governor by making some significant changes to reform every single aspect of our system. That’s why we’re carrying all these bills. We are looking forward to starting that discussion on Tuesday.”

The bills that make up the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus Justice Reform and Racial Equity package are outlined below:

POLICING REFORM – Senator Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton)

  • Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
  • Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement*
  • Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  • Expand Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers*
  • Ban chokeholds and strangleholds (George Floyd)
  • Require Attempts at De-escalation Prior to Use of Force
  • Require Warnings Before Shots Fired If Feasible
  • Require Law Enforcement to Exhaust All Other Means Prior to Using Deadly Force
  • Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers and Whistleblower Protection
  • Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles
  • Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Cancel HB599 Funding (Virginia supplemental funding for local police departments) After Local Police Have Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents In their Jurisdiction
  •  Encourage Local Police to Seek Accreditation

REFORM CRIMINAL LAW – Senator Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon)

  • Adjusts Sentence of Assaults With Law Enforcement Victims to Felony Only If Injury Occurs

    EXPUNGEMENT – Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County)

  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Charges for Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions and Pardoned Offenses*

PROVIDE PROSECUTORS MORE FLEXIBILITY – Senator Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon)

  • Confirm Prosecutors’ Authority to Drop Charges*
  •  Restore Prosecutors Ability to Enter Plea Agreements that Reduce or Dismiss Charges After Completion of Rehabilitation

RACIAL PROFILING – Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth)

  • Prohibit Searches of Person or Vehicle Based on Odor of Marijuana Without Probable Cause for Other Offenses*
  • Prohibit Stops for Equipment Violations Not Covered by State Vehicle Inspection
  • Secondary Offense For Dangling Objects, Extinguished Tag Light, Tinted Windows or Loud Exhaust

SENTENCING REFORM – Senator Joe Morrissey (D-Richmond)

  • Jury Sentencing Only at Option of the Accused*
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Demand Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for State of Emergency*
  • Require Agencies to Determine Cost Savings for Introduced Criminal Justice Legislation

PRISON REFORM – Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax)

  • Allow Earned Sentence Credit for Good Behavior During Prison*
  • Create Discretion for Compassionate Release for Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners*


CITIZEN REVIEW BOARDS – Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield)

  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board Empowered to Investigate, Fire and/or Discipline Officers


MOBILE CRISIS TEAMS – Senator Jeremy McPike (D-Prince William)

  • Create Local Authority for Mobile Crisis Teams to Respond to Mental Health Situations

PATTERN & PRACTICE INVESTIGATIONS – Senator L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth)

  • Create Authority for Attorney General’s Office to Investigate any Patterns and Practices in Local Police Departments that Deprive Persons of Rights, Privileges or Immunities

* Represents Legislation Introduced in Prior Sessions

Reform Is Also a Long Term Process

There are other measures that are being studied and considered for the 2021 General Session that were introduced, are under study, and were too complex for the shortened special session including:

  • Restoration of Parole
  • Decoupling Charging and Conviction Decisions from Commonwealth Attorney Funding
  • Public Defender Pay Equity
  • Expanding Public Defender Offices to Additional Jurisdictions
  • Elimination of Mandatory Minimum Sentences

The Senate Democratic Caucus Has Led on These Issues in Past Sessions

The Senate Democratic Caucus has led in the area of Criminal Justice Reform for years and we look forward to working with the Governor and the House of Delegates to collaboratively enact these policies.  Last year, many Senate criminal justice reform bills passed the Senate last year but were not presented to the Governor including:

  • Elimination of jury sentencing [Morrissey, SB 811],
  • Prohibiting imposition of death penalty to person with severe mental illness [Favola, SB 116],
  • Defelonzing third offense petit larceny [Morrissey, SB 807],
  • Allow jury to recommend leniency [Deeds, SB 326],
  • Ban sexual relations between officers and arested persons [Marsden, SB 242],
  • Analyze and collect data, reporting standards as it pertains to bail [McClellan, SB 723],
  • Require judges to explain failure to use of recommended evidence-based non-incarceration sentencing alternatives [Surovell, SB 438],
  • Reinstate prosecutors and judges’ authority to reduce/drop charges upon terms and conditions [Surovell, SB 489],
  • Allowing court appointed defendants to seek expert witness assistance on an ex parte basis without involvement of prosecutors [Morrissey, SB 806]
  • Compassionate release of permanently disabled prisoners [Bell, SB 493],
  • Compassionate release of terminally ill prisoners [Bell, SB 493],
  • Expunge marijuana/alcohol/tobacco charges dismissed per successful rehabilitation program completion [McDougle, SB 517],
  • Require Virginia Sentencing Commission recommendations to be published to juries before sentencing [Morrissey, SB 810],
  • Reduce maximum sentence for robberies without physical injuries from life to terms of years, [Morrissey, SB 805],
  • Expunge marijuana/tobacco/alcohol/fake ID convictions occurring before age 21 [McDougle, SB 517],
  • Expunge convictions pardoned by Governor [Norment, SB 608],
  • Require recording of all in-custody interrogations [McClellan, SB 730],
  • Defelonize consensual sexting between minors [Surovell, SB 440].

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