Virginia Crime Commission votes to recommend removal of mandatory minimum sentences

Politics

Virginia State Crime Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia State Crime Commission voted on Tuesday to recommend the elimination of all mandatory minimum sentences to the General Assembly.

The commission, chaired by Del. Charniele Herring (D-Alexandria), voted 9-2 to approve this policy option during a virtual meeting.

The commission is made up of six democratic state legislators, one republican delegate, the Norfolk Chief of Police, the state director of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the director of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia and the Chief Deputy Attorney General.

Del. Les Adams (R-Martinsville) and Chief Larry Boone made the two dissenting votes.

According to study findings presented at the meeting, there are 224 offenses that require a mandatory minimum sentence under Virginia law. Most of these offenses are felonies and 62 are misdemeanor offenses. Of the 62 misdemeanors, 52 are related to driving while intoxicated.

The study found that only 3% of convictions were offenses that required a mandatory minimum sentence. These sentences were found to not be implemented consistently and were applied to black inmates more than white inmates.

House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert released a statement addressing the panel’s vote.

“This is by far the most egregious ‘soft on crime’ proposal yet in the Democrats’ attempts to make life easier on criminals. This proposal to retroactively revisit imposed sentences would drag the victims of rape, assault, child pornography, and hate crimes crimes, as well as the families of murder victims, back into court as these criminals are re-sentenced,” Gilbert said. “Victims would face an impossible choice  — relive the worst day of their lives once again, or potentially let their tormentors walk free.”

Inmates serving only mandatory minimum sentences are most commonly either convicted with drug distribution, driving without a license, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, firearm use in commission of a felony and simple assault on law enforcement.

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