The State of the Law – Upcoming Changes in Criminal Law?

Here’s an overview of some of the criminal law bills currently being reviewed by the Virginia General Assembly. Contact us when you need the best criminal defense.

The General Assembly is currently in session.  This means we may have some new laws effective later this year.  Most changes would take effect July 1, 2015.  The full legislative history of what is in the works can be viewed here.  What follows is a brief survey of some criminal law changes that may be coming this year.

Some of the Criminal Law Bills Would Make Life for Virginians a Little Easier 

Fairfax Court House PlaqueThe following bills seek to make the criminal laws less severe than they currently are:

  1. HB 1317 – this bill seeks to change the reckless driving top speed threshold. Currently, an individual can be convicted of reckless driving if they are either going 20 mph over the speed limit or driving 80 mph, regardless of the speed limit in effect.  Should HB 1317 pass and become a new criminal law, the 80 mph limit would be increased to 85 mph. Reckless driving is a class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500.00 fine, and a license suspension of up to six months.
  1. HB 1370 – this bill also affects how reckless driving cases will be resolved. Under the current criminal law, only a judge is permitted to reduce an accused individual’s charge from reckless driving to improper driving when the facts of the case establish “culpability was slight.”  If this bill passes, it would allow a jury to reduce an accused individual’s charge, too.
  1. HB 1369 – this bill would change the threshold for felony and petty theft-related offenses. Currently, Virginia has one of the lowest thresholds for increasing a theft offense from a misdemeanor to a felony.  Should this criminal law bill pass, it would raise the threshold for a felony grand larceny from $200 to $500.  This change would affect a wide range of criminal offenses, and would bring Virginia closer in line with Maryland’s and Washington D.C.’s thresholds.

Other Criminal Law Bills Seek to Increase Punishment 

The following bills have new and serious consequences should they be enacted:

  1. HB 1687 – this criminal law bill seeks to increase the penalties for injuring an individual who is employed by a school in the course of performing their duties. The amendment to the current criminal law would raise battery of a school employee from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.  Additionally, the proposed change would require a judge or a jury to impose a 6-month mandatory minimum sentence (under current criminal law, a judge must impose a total sentence of at least 15 days, but can suspend up to 13 days of that sentence; the remaining 2 days are a mandatory minimum sentence that must be served).  Furthermore, if the battery is committed with a prohibited weapon or firearm, the mandatory jail time doubles to 1 year (currently 6 months).
  1. HB 1353 – this criminal law bill affects certain offenders who were convicted between 1980 and 1994 of certain sex-related crimes. There are certain categories of offenders who are either no longer on the registry or were not required to register.  This bill would retroactively allow the Virginia State Police to create a supplemental sex offender registry that would permit those who are unregistered to be catalogued, and the information would be available to the public.

In addition to the pending bills discussed here, there are many others that could affect our daily lives.  Check out the entire list of proposed bills to make sure you know how your representatives are changing your life.

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