Petition for modification of sentence; eligibility, procedures. (HB834)

Introduced By

Del. Rae Cousins (D-Richmond) with support from co-patron Del. Rozia Henson (D-Woodbridge)

Progress

Introduced
Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law

Description

Petition for modification of a sentence; eligibility; procedures. Provides a process for a person serving a sentence for any conviction or a combination of any convictions who remains incarcerated in a state or local correctional facility or secure facility and meets certain criteria to petition the circuit court that entered the original judgment or order to (i) suspend the unserved portion of such sentence or run the unserved portion of such sentence concurrently with another sentence, (ii) place such person on probation for such time as the court shall determine, or (iii) otherwise modify the sentence imposed. Read the Bill »

Notes

The Fiscal Impact Statement estimates that this legislation will have the following cost implications: 1. Department of Corrections (DOC) workload: The bill requires DOC to notify eligible inmates of their eligibility to petition for sentence modification. This would require up to 18 new Program Support Technicians at a cost of $71,398 each (salary and benefits included) from the general fund per year. 2. Transportation of inmates: The bill requires circuit courts to provide transportation for inmates to local or regional correctional facilities to assist in the preparation of their petitions. The fiscal impact on DOC or the local/regional jails involved is unknown at this time. 3. Probation and parole resources: The bill allows courts to place offenders on probation, which may require additional resources from the Department of Corrections. Each additional probation and parole officer needed would cost $76,810. 4. Modification to offender tracking system: The bill requires modifications to the offender tracking system used by DOC, estimated to cost $360,000. DOC expects to absorb these costs. 5. Indigent defense representation: Eligible petitioners have the right to request assistance of counsel, and if appointed, the attorneys will be compensated at the same rate as attorneys providing representation on a felony case. The impact on the Criminal Fund is expected to be significant in the first year of enactment, with an estimated cost of $1,235 fee cap per appointed attorney. 6. Appeals to Court of Appeals and Supreme Court: The number of appeals and the fiscal impact are difficult to predict. The Court of Appeals and Supreme Court may require additional clerk positions, staff attorney positions, and appointed counsel representation, estimated at $1,900 per appeal for the Court of Appeals and $1,300 per appeal for the Supreme Court. 7. Office of Attorney General workload: The bill is expected to increase the workload of the Correctional Litigation and Criminal Appeals sections of the Office of Attorney General. The specific impact and cost are unknown at this time. 8. Impact on courts and Commonwealth's Attorneys: The impact on courts and Commonwealth's Attorneys will depend on the number and complexity of the petitions received, and it is currently unknown.

Summary generated automatically by OpenAI.

Outcome

Bill Has Failed

History

DateAction
01/09/2024Committee
01/09/2024Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/10/24 24102929D
01/09/2024Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/30/2024Assigned Courts sub: Criminal
01/31/2024House subcommittee amendments and substitutes offered
01/31/2024Subcommittee recommends reporting with substitute (5-Y 2-N)
01/31/2024Subcommittee recommends referring to Committee on Appropriations
02/06/2024Impact statement from DPB (HB834)
02/07/2024House committee, floor amendments and substitutes offered
02/07/2024Reported from Courts of Justice with substitute (13-Y 9-N) (see vote tally)
02/07/2024Committee substitute printed 24107224D-H1
02/07/2024Referred to Committee on Appropriations
02/13/2024Left in Appropriations

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: SB427.

Comments

Fred Woehrle writes:

This bill is a bad idea, because it would allow even serial killers serving sentences of life without parole to seek release after 15 years in prison, effectively abolishing life without parole even for the rare offenders who deserve it. A similar, but less extreme, version of this bill died last year in the House of Delegates (SB 842).

As a blog pointed out, this "Second Look bill has been described by journalists like Kerry Dougherty as an end-run around restrictions on parole. But Second Look legislation lacks the safeguards and consistency of the parole system. Parole boards apply consistent standards to all offenders in a state. But Second Look petitions are ruled on by hundreds of different judges who have different ideas about when to release inmates." (https://libertyunyielding.com/2023/01/25/senate-committee-passes-second-look-bill-allowing-all-offenders-to-seek-release-after-15-years/)

This bill is modeled on Washington, DC's second look law. Under that law, murderers with multiple victims have been released, and some released offenders have reoffended and had to be arrested again. In February 2023, the Washington Post reported, “So far, D.C. judges have ordered the release of 135 people under the law….Twenty-nine requests were denied, according to the data. Of those released, the majority had been convicted of murder.” The Post was discussing this in an article about a rapist who was seeking release after he raped three women and forced the victims to dig their own graves.

A year ago, DC’s recently-enacted second look law had already “has led to 135 defendants being released early, of whom 28 have been rearrested,” according to the Daily Caller in February 2023. The number rearrested has apparently risen since then. So this bill would increase the crime rate.

Backers of this legislation argue that "everyone deserves a second chance." But the bill goes beyond giving offenders a second chance, because it gives even the most persistent reoffenders an opportunity to seek release — offenders who already had and squandered their "second chance." Most inmates serving more than 15 years have already had their second, third, fourth, and fifth chances — the typical released state prison inmate has five prior convictions, according to Rafael Mangual, a criminal-justice expert at the Manhattan Institute.

The bill appears to be based on faulty assumptions about inmates' recidivism rates, which can be quite high, as this blog post points out: https://libertyunyielding.com/2023/02/06/virginia-senate-approves-early-release-bill-for-many-inmates-it-would-give-inmates-sentences-a-second-look/

Clark writes:

This bill is a good idea and I hope it passes. To oppose this bill by saying that this would allow serial killers to seek release is a flawed argument. Having the ability to seek release or sentence modification does not mean the individual would automatically be granted any sort of clemency. It is no difference than having the ability to apply for parole. Being able to apply for parole does not mean one would automatically be granted parole. Not allowing this to be available as an option for incarcerated individuals is basically saying no incarcerated individual is ever deserving of a second chance.

Clark writes:

This bill is a good idea and I hope it passes. To oppose this bill by saying that this would allow serial killers to seek release is a flawed argument. Having the ability to seek release or sentence modification does not mean the individual would automatically be granted any sort of clemency. It is no different than having the ability to apply for parole. Being able to apply for parole does not mean one would automatically be granted parole. Not allowing this to be available as an option at all for incarcerated individuals is basically saying no incarcerated individual is ever deserving of a second chance.

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