RD22 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2010 Interim Executive Summary of Activities
Established in 1966, the Virginia State Crime Commission (“Commission”) is a legislative agency authorized by the Code of Virginia § 30-156 et seq. to study, report, and make recommendations on all areas of public safety and protection. The Commission is a criminal justice agency as defined in the Code of Virginia § 9.1-101.
The Commission consists of thirteen members -- nine legislative members, three non-legislative citizen members, and one state official, as follows: six members of the House of Delegates appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates in accordance with the principles of proportional representation contained in the Rules of the House of Delegates; three members of the Senate appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules; three non-legislative citizen members appointed by the Governor; and the Attorney General or his designee.
Throughout 2010, the Commission held three Commission meetings: September 8, November 15, and December 8. In addition to full Commission meetings, two work groups were created to review numerous bill referrals. The Law Enforcement Work Group met June 16 and the Protective Order Work Group met June 22.
During the 2010 General Assembly Session, a total of one mandated study and twelve bill referrals were sent to the Commission for review. Additionally, the Commission completed its work on the ongoing juvenile justice transfer and certification study. Staff continues to be involved in the Forensic Science Board’s DNA Notification Project.
The Commission was mandated by House Joint Resolution 97 to study the penalties for taking indecent liberties with children and prostitution-related offenses involving children. The Commission was also requested to study the disparity in penalties attached to statutes prohibiting taking indecent liberties with children and the actual penalties applied to persons convicted of these offenses; how many actions have been brought for withholding wages, pandering/pimping, and soliciting for prostitution; and the process a child goes through if arrested for violating prostitution-related offenses. As part of this study, staff requested data from the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission, the Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry. A final report will be published as a 2011 House Document.
As previously mentioned, the Commission formed a Law Enforcement Work Group, comprised of about thirty members, which included Crime Commission members and representatives from around the state. The group was tasked with reviewing law enforcement issues, specifically emergency response and lineups. Senate Bill 847 (emergency vehicles proceeding past red lights) was referred to the Commission for study during the 2009 Session, but was deferred due to a pending civil lawsuit, which was settled in January 2010. In addition to reviewing emergency vehicles proceeding past red lights, the topic of police pursuits was also incorporated as a part of the law enforcement emergency response study. Staff developed a comprehensive survey which was distributed to all Virginia law enforcement agencies in an effort to obtain data on pursuits, as well as a review of law enforcement agency pursuit and emergency response policies.
The work group also discussed House Bill 207 (police lineups), which was referred to the Commission for study during the 2010 Session of the General Assembly. Staff created a brief survey, which was distributed to all law enforcement agencies to ascertain the current status of department lineup policies.
A second work group was created to review seven bill referrals sent to the Commission for study, dealing with protective orders, specifically, who can obtain protective orders, service of protective orders, use of GPS monitoring devices, and penalties for violation of protective orders. The Protective Order Work Group was also comprised of about thirty members and included Crime Commission members and representatives from around the state. The following bills were reviewed:
• Senate Bill 208 (Adds dating relationships to protective orders);
• House Bill 164 (Allows GPS monitoring for people subject to a protective order);
• House Bill 216 (Penalties for violation of protective order);
• House Bill 285 (Adds companion animals to protective orders);
• House Bill 453 (Service of protective orders);
• House Bill 656 (Allows GPS monitoring for people subject to a protective order); and,
• House Bill 1156 (Minors may petition for protective order).
In addition to the ongoing juvenile transfer and certification study, two bills related to juvenile transfer were referred to the Commission this past Session for review: Senate Bill 205 (right in certain violent felony cases to appeal to circuit court) and Senate Bill 389 (offenses for which a juvenile is subject to transfer). Staff obtained new and updated data from the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Supreme Court of Virginia, and the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission regarding the number of juveniles who are considered for transfer, the number of juveniles who are transferred, and juvenile convictions in circuit court, respectively. Lastly, Senate Bill 287 (law enforcement procedural guarantee act) was referred to the Commission for review this year. The Commission studied this same issue in 1992 and updated those findings in reviewing the bill.
During 2010, two additional issues came to the attention of Commission members and were added to this year’s study work plan – synthetic marijuana and familial DNA searching. In light of recent events, both nationwide and in Virginia, staff was requested to review legislation criminalizing synthetic marijuana, also known as “spice” or “K2.” Staff also consulted with the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Forensic Science regarding the list of chemical ingredients found in synthetic marijuana. Due to two recent violent crimes committed in Virginia, members requested staff to examine issues related to familial DNA searching. To date, Colorado and California are the only two states that have developed software to perform these searches. Representatives from each state provided presentations at the November Commission meeting on their success of using this new technique to identify criminal suspects who may have otherwise gone unidentified. Members of the Commission are supportive of this new technology and are interested in seeing Virginia pursue this to solve violent crimes using the Virginia DNA databank.
In addition to these studies, the Commission’s Executive Director serves as a member of the Forensic Science Board pursuant to the Code of Virginia § 9.1-1109(A)(7). The Executive Director also acts as the Chair of the DNA Notification Subcommittee, which is charged with the oversight of notification to convicted persons that DNA evidence exists within old Department of Forensic Science case files that may be suitable for testing.
In accordance with the Code of Virginia § 19.2-163.02, the Commission’s Executive Director also served on the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, and specifically as a member of the Budget Committee and the Personnel and Training Committee.