VA House Democratic Delegates Promote Criminal Justice Reform Initiatives

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RICHMOND — Democratic members of the Virginia House called on their colleagues Thursday to raise the threshold for grand larceny and allow more professionals to administer medication to someone who has overdosed on drugs.

The legislators discussed proposals to reform the criminal justice system and address the opioid crisis at a news conference Thursday.

Del. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk urged support for HB 1313, which would increase the threshold for grand larceny, a felony crime, to $500. Currently, the dividing line between misdemeanor and felony theft in Virginia is $200 — one of the lowest in the nation. It hasn’t changed since 1980.

“Two hundred dollars might have been OK in 1980 when the price of a gallon of gas was 86 cents and a quart of milk was 67 cents, or when the average price of a house was $35,000,” Lindsey said. “But we believe that in 2018, there needs to be an adjustment. That time is now.”




Because the threshold for grand larceny is low, someone convicted of stealing a cellphone or bicycle in Virginia may end up with a felony on their record.

“Time and time again, these wind up being felony offenses, where in so many of our neighboring jurisdictions, they would have just been petty misdemeanors,” Lindsey said.

Del. Michael Mullen of Newport News, a former  prosecutor, discussed HB 202. Under this legislation, courts would have to tell criminal defendants that  they don’t have to pay their court costs and fees out of pocket. Instead, they could do  community service at an hourly rate of $7.25 to offset the costs.

“That’s been on the books for years, but so often people don’t know it,” Mullen said. “There might be hundreds of people who come through on a daily basis, and they get moved through very quickly. The things they can utilize, they are not being told about.”

Also at the news conference, the lawmakers urged support for

HB 322, which would  add probation, parole and correctional officers to the list of professionals who may administer naloxone — a narcotic overdose reversal drug. The bill has passed the House and is before the Senate.

HB 131, which would make it easier for providers to prescribe non-opioid painkillers. For instance, if someone has a broken leg and is in recovery from opioid addiction, the person can obtain a non-opioid painkiller to avoid relapse.

“For me the opioid crisis is personal,” said Del. John Bell of Loudoun County. “Last year, with his permission to share his story, my son, Josh, who is 32 years old and is a veteran in the United States Air Force, injured his neck in a car accident. He became addicted to opioids. He walked out of the emergency room with a 90-day prescription for opioids. His addiction lasted seven years.”

By Brandon Celentano

Capital News Service

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