Virginia Governor Signs Bills Focused on Criminal Justice Reform, Adds Amendments

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Gov. Ralph Northam signed a series of bills into law that reform the current criminal justice system in Virginia. He also proposed two amendments focused on marijuana charges and eligibility for parole.

One of the new laws states that anyone who has a suspended license for unpaid fees or fines will have it reinstated. There will no longer be a suspension for those penalties. Driver's licenses can also no longer be suspended for non-driving related offenses.

Additionally, in order for a juvenile to be tried as an adult without court approval, they will have to be at least 16 years old. Whereas previously, the age requirement was only 14.

Another bill increases the felony larceny threshold from $500 to $1,000.

Northam is proposing two amendments, one that decriminalizes simple possession of marijuana and creates a $25 fine as a civil penalty. It also seals the records of past convictions related to the same offense.

The governor also said he wants a study conducted on the potential impact of the legalization of marijuana.

The other amendment Northam proposed would make anyone sentenced between 1995 and 2000 eligible for parole. This is because juries were not made aware of that parole was abolished in 1995 until 2000.

“Every Virginian deserves access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” said Northam in a press release. “These bills combat mass incarceration, increase support for returning citizens, and ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have a meaningful second chance.

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