The House Courts of Justice Subcommittee killed a bill Monday that would have provided incarcerated individuals who meet a certain criteria with the opportunity to petition the circuit court for a reduced sentence. Currently, the only way this can happen is with a pardon from the governor.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. Chap Petersen (D) and passed in the Senate on a bipartisan 25-15 vote.
A public speaker in support of the bill emphasized to the committee members that this process is not a slam dunk for the petitioner by any means. It will require lawyers and investigators do to a “great deal of work,” he said, while noting that many applicants will be denied.
Nate Green from the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys spoke in opposition, saying it will make a liar out of all prosecutors if this bill passes with a retroactive impact. He stressed to the committee members that victims are told they can move on with their life after the sentencing, but this will make them have to become re-involved in the process years down the road.
Ramin Fetehi, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Norfolk spoke in favor of the bill on behalf of his and other large localities including Arlington, Henrico, Albermarle, and more. “It allows us to see whether people can in fact change,” he said in his testimony. “It is not an automatic release.”
Del. Rob Bell (R) noted the same instance as Green, however, saying “the victim is made promises.” Bell then moved to kill the bill and his Republican colleagues supported his motion on a 5-3 vote.
“There are simply no words,” the ACLU of Virginia said in a statement after the bill failed to pass. “We are beyond disappointed.”
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