RD28 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2015 Interim Executive Summary of Activities

    Executive Summary:
    Established in 1966, the Virginia State 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 nonlegislative 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 2015, the Commission held three meetings: September 29, October 27, and December 3. During the 2015 General Assembly Session, a total of five bill referrals, relating to three topics, were sent to the Commission and approved for review. These bill referrals dealt with the topics of asset forfeiture, statute of limitations in regards to certain misdemeanor sexual crimes against minors, and the crime of stalking. Additionally, the Commission approved staff completing the endorsed recommendations from its 2014 Search and Rescue/Missing Persons study and decided to continue to monitor the topic of illegal cigarette trafficking. The Commission continued to be involved in the Forensic Science Board’s DNA Notification Project and staff ensured that the recommendations made by the Commission relating to the priority of testing and notification were carried out. Details regarding these studies and activities will be made available in the Commission’s 2015 Annual Report.

    Throughout the year, staff researched three issues as a result of bill referrals to the Commission during the 2015 Session of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 684 and House Bill 1287 dealt with forfeiture of property used in connection with the commission of crimes. Staff completed a comprehensive review of all forfeiture statutes and related case law. A review of other states’ forfeiture laws was also conducted. Staff met with key stakeholders and surveyed all Virginia law enforcement agencies and Commonwealth’s Attorneys’ Offices. Recommendations for improving the current asset forfeiture system in Virginia were made.

    Senate Bill 1253 dealt with the statute of limitations for several misdemeanor sexual crimes against minors. Staff reviewed existing relevant statutes and whether extending the statute of limitations to one year after a victim reaches 18 years of age for misdemeanor violations of certain crimes was appropriate.

    Senate Bill 1297 and House Bill 1453 dealt with the crime of stalking. Staff examined stalking statutes in Virginia and other states. In particular, staff reviewed any constitutional concerns potentially raised by adding an “emotional distress” element to the existing statutory crime.

    In order to fulfill the endorsed recommendations from the Commission’s 2014 Search and Rescue/Missing Persons study, staff convened a work group in May 2015 that was comprised of over 40 representatives with specific knowledge or experience in search and rescue or missing persons. As a result of these efforts, three working documents relating to first responder search and rescue efforts, as well as a family resource guide, have been developed. Staff presented and disseminated the working documents at the 2015 Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police’s and Virginia Sheriffs’ Association’s annual conferences. The family resource guide is expected to be released by the Department of Criminal Justice Services in spring 2016. Finally, presentations on the DNA Notification Project and illegal cigarette trafficking were provided by staff. Detailed study presentations can be found on the Commission’s website at: http://vscc.virginia.gov.

    As a result of these studies, a number of legislative proposals were endorsed by the Crime Commission and will be presented for consideration during the 2016 Session of the General Assembly. The Commission’s legislative package includes bills dealing with asset forfeiture, stalking, and statute of limitations.

    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 that may be suitable for testing exists within old Department of Forensic Science case files.

    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 specifically as a member of the Budget Committee and the Personnel and Training Committee. The Executive Director also serves on the newly created Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence as a designee for the Chair of the Commission.