More New VA Laws (You should probably read this one!)

The Virginia General Assembly is the Commonwealth’s state legislature, which means they are primarily responsible for making Virginia state laws. It is bicameral, which means it consists of two chambers, similar to those of Congress. In Virginia, there is one chamber (a lower house) with 100 delegates and another (an upper house) with 40 senators. Each year, during the first month or so, members of both chambers convene in Richmond to address the needs and concerns of their constituents. This includes addressing old laws, tweaking existing laws, and promulgating (making) new laws. 

The aim of this post is to inform you, my readers, of the new laws of which you should be aware. I hope this is informative, and the more you know, the better you will be in terms of a legal defense when you or someone you know comes to my office seeking legal counsel.

As you are aware, our country has been under much turmoil, not just because of the pandemic, but also due to events all around the country last year that stemmed from various cases of systemic and racial injustice. The General Assembly sought to address those issues to build a more unified and equal climate for all people by enacting new laws. It seems that the primary goal was mostly accomplished. While we can never be so sure how these laws will play out, it is exciting and refreshing to see lawmakers actively address issues we have, unfortunately, witnessed far too many times. 

The new laws listed below are directly copied and pasted from Senator Scott Surovell’s email distribution. These primarily have to do with matters in the criminal law context. For a full list, visit Virginia’s Legislative System here.

  • Prohibit No Knock Warrants (Breonna Taylor)
  • Abolishing Virginia’s 200+ year-old jury sentencing law that forced accused persons to plead guilty
  • Ban Sex With Individuals Arrested by Law Enforcement
  • Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  • Expands 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 Using Excessive Force
  • Prohibit Shooting at Moving Motor Vehicles If Feasible
  • Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  • Require Comprehensive Reporting by All Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Requires De-escalation Training and Standardizes Minimum Training
  • Eliminate Increased Law Enforcement Funding if Agency Fails to Obtain Accreditation
  • Establish the authority of the Attorney General to investigate police departments that systemically deprive persons of rights, privileges or immunities.
  • A local option for citizen review boards empowered to investigate, fire and/or discipline officers.
  • The authority to establish mental health mobile crisis co-response teams.
  • My bill to restore fairness to our courts by allowing prosecutors to dismiss charges
  • My bill to allow prosecutors to reach agreements deferring and reducing or dismissing charges after rehabilitation and good behavior
  • Eliminate pretextual stops for violations like hanging a mask or parking permit from your rearview mirror.
  • Prohibit stops and arrests based solely upon an odor of marijuana
  • Create a pathway for early release for prisoners who exercise good behavior and rehabilitation in prison
  • Creating discretion for compassionate release for terminally ill or permanently disabled prisoners, as well as geriatric release.