Compromise makes new crime laws likely in Virginia

Bills that would help crime victims and raise the dollar threshold for a felony in Virginia appear to be on a fast-track to becoming law.

Governor Ralph Northam says he’s reached a compromise with House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox and Senator Mark Obenshain on several measures. That, Northam says, means the General Assembly will pass, and he will support and sign, a package of five bills: Legislation introduced by Delegate Les Adams (R-Pittsylvania) and Senator David Suetterlein (R-Roanoke) to raise the felony larceny threshold from $200 to $500; two bills introduced by Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) and Senator Obenshain (R-Rockingham) to ensure that restitution ordered by the courts is collected from defendants, and two bills to ensure that that after that restitution has been collected it’s finally delivered to crime victims

A Crime Commission study found that there was over $230 million in restitution owed to victims across the Commonwealth, but was unpaid and overdue. More recently, WRIC8 reporter Kerri O’Brien found and research confirmed that $8 million in restitution was collected from defendants, but never delivered to the crime victims.

“We were shocked when we learned how much outstanding restitution was owed to crime victims,” says Delegate Bell, who chairs the House Courts of Justice Committee. “This is money that crime victims need to pay their bills and rebuild their lives. They have to come to court, testify under oath, and many have to describe the most frightening moment of their life to strangers, only to be cross examined and scrutinized in the media. The least we can do is ensure that they receive the restitution that the justice system promises to them.”

Delegate Joe Lindsay (D-Norfolk) says the current $200 felony threshold is the most severe in the nation.  “By raising it,” says Lindsay, “we are sending a clear message that theft is a serious crime, but stealing one phone or pair of boots should not ruin a person’s life.”

“This compromise is a key breakthrough for commonsense criminal justice reform,” says Governor Northam. 

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Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.