RD153 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2011 Annual Report

Executive Summary:
Established in 1966, the Virginia State Crime Commission (Crime 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 2011, the Crime Commission held four Commission meetings: July 25, September 20, November 16, and December 6. During the 2011 General Assembly Session, a total of one mandated study and eight bill referrals were sent to the Commission and approved for review. The Commission also received several letter requests for studies. Additionally, the Commission continues to be involved in the Forensic Science Board’s DNA Notification Project.

The Crime Commission was mandated to study federal requirements regarding Virginia’s sex offender registry and the extent to which Virginia is in compliance with these requirements (SJR 348). The Commission was also requested to examine the effectiveness of the registry in preventing sexual victimization and to determine the feasibility of implementing a tiered system. For the complete report on the Sex Offender Registry study, please see Senate Document 8 (2012).

Throughout the year, staff reviewed numerous study issues as a result of bills being referred to the Commission during the 2011 Session of the General Assembly. Specifically, during 2011, the following issues were reviewed: the issues of reckless driving and speeding (HB 1993 and HB 2322), the inherent authority of courts to defer and dismiss in a criminal case (HB 2513), medical fraud control unit investigators (HB 2454), creating animal abuser and domestic abuser registries (HB 1930 and HB 1932), making it a crime for an adult stranger to solicit a child for an automobile ride (HB 2396), as well as the death and rape investigations by campus police departments (HB 2490). As a result of member letter requests, the Commission also examined cyberbullying and the disposition of unrestorably incompetent defendants. The Commission also received study letter requests from the Commission on Youth requesting a review of the protection and purging of juvenile records and barrier crimes that prevent kinship care placements. As a result of last year’s extensive protective order study, staff identified several minor Department of Criminal Justice Services as a result of last year’s study of HB 207, which found that only 75% of law enforcement agencies were in compliance with the Code of Virginia’s requirement that all departments have a written lineup policy. Study presentations can be found on the Commission’s website at: http://vscc.virginia.gov.

Three additional issues came to the attention of Crime Commission members during the course of the year and were added to the study work plan – reporting of missing children, synthetic marijuana, and pseudoephedrine/NPLEx. In response to the verdict in Casey Anthony’s trial and the resulting enormous public outrage, staff was requested to review legislation regarding the reporting of missing children.

In regard to synthetic marijuana, last year the General Assembly passed legislation that made it illegal to possess, distribute, possess with the intent to distribute, or manufacture several synthetic cannabinoid chemicals. During the fall of 2011, the Department of Forensic Science reported to the Forensic Science Board and the Crime Commission that additional synthetic cannabinoid chemicals were being found in Virginia, and identified by the Lab, that were not illegal to possess or consume, as they had not been included in last year’s legislation.

Lastly, the Joint Commission on Health Care advised the Crime Commission members of the growing problem of methamphetamine use and available options to address the sale of pseudoephedrine in Virginia.

In addition to these studies, the Crime 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 serves on the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission and as a member of the Budget Committee and the Personnel and Training Committee.