Criminal Justice Reform in the 2016 General Assembly?

The 2016 General Assembly session starts on Wednesday, January 13. Among our top priorities are ensuring that the constitutional rights of all Virginians are vigorously protected and promoting a fair and accountable criminal justice system.

Here are some of the bills related to criminal justice we are monitoring:

Asset Forfeiture Reform – HB48/SB108


Virginia’s abusive asset forfeiture laws enable police and prosecutors to seize someone’s property without ever even charging them with a crime. In fact, the libertarian Institute for Justice rated Virginia’s laws as among the worst in the country. HB48/SB108 would be an important first step to protect property rights and due process and end asset forfeiture abuse in Virginia by requiring a criminal conviction.

Unfortunately, despite widespread support across party lines for this legislation, Republican Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment killed similar legislation last year. Sign the petition to your state legislators today and tell the General Assembly “No more excuses” in 2016.

Marijuana Decriminalization – SB104


Marijuana prohibition wastes police resources that could be better spent keeping Virginians safe from violent crimes. Prohibition also perpetuates racial inequality and prevents sick and disabled Virginians from having access to medicine that can ease their pain.

It’s time to get Virginia law in line with the vast majority of Americans who support marijuana decriminalization. Urge your Virginia Delegate and Senator to support marijuana decriminalization by signing our petition.

Increasing Mandatory Minimum Sentences – HB439/HB277


At a time when national politicians in both major parties are trying to work together to reduce or eliminate mandatory minimum sentences — which contribute to the country’s high incarceration rate and perpetuate racial inequality and poverty — the Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that would create new or harsher mandatory minimum sentences.

Limiting Trial By Ambush – HB246


Virginia law enables prosecutors to withhold police reports and witness statements from defendants before trial. HB246 would limit trial by ambush by requiring prosecutors to disclose police reports to the defense. Virginia’s criminal discovery rules are among the least fair in the country, and this legislation would be a vital step in the right direction.

Increasing the Grand Larceny Threshold – HB396/SB23/SB226/SB235/SB177


At $200, Virginia’s felony larceny threshold is the lowest in the country and has not been updated since 1980, wasting resources and encouraging harsh sentences for petty crimes. A number of bills have been introduced this session to increase the threshold to $500 or $1000. Right Way Forward Virginia supports increasing the threshold, preferably at least in line with the majority of states at $1000 or more.

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