RD27 - Virginia State Crime Commission 2016 Interim Executive Summary of Activities

    Executive Summary:

    *The Executive Summary was replaced in its entirety by the Virginia State Crime Commission on June 30, 2017.

    In addition to a number of ongoing studies, the Crime Commission received numerous bill referrals and letter requests in 2016. Staff studied five new issues as a result of bill referrals and letter requests: restitution, search warrants, pretrial services, the use of the term “mental retardation" in capital murder statutes, and habeas corpus. The Crime Commission held three meetings to review and discuss study findings: October 3rd, November 10th, and December 5th. At its December meeting, the Crime Commission endorsed legislation on the topics of restitution, the use of the term “mental retardation," search warrants, and cigarette trafficking that were introduced during the 2017 Session of the General Assembly.

    Staff examined restitution in relation to revocation of probation or suspended sentences per House Bill 605. In order to address the study mandate, staff collected available literature and research, gathered and analyzed data from numerous local and state entities, completed a review of Virginia restitution statutes, reviewed restitution statutes and practices of other states, and met with numerous stakeholders involved in the restitution process in Virginia. Staff also developed and disseminated a survey to clerks of court for all circuit, general district, juvenile and domestic relations, and combined district courts. As a result of this study, the Crime Commission endorsed several legislative recommendations to improve the overall restitution process in the Commonwealth.

    Staff completed a comprehensive legal analysis of search warrants in regard to probation violations that do not involve new criminal offenses as outlined in Senate Bill 247 and House Bill 361. Staff also met with interested parties to determine the extent of the problem. Crime Commission members endorsed the language in the substitute version of SB 247, which was introduced during the 2017 session of the General Assembly.

    Staff began their initial research for the two-year study relating to pretrial services, per House Bills 774 and 776. A representative from the Department of Criminal Justice Services gave a presentation at the December Commission meeting to provide members with a preliminary overview of pretrial services in Virginia. Staff plans to continue work on this topic during 2017 and provide a detailed presentation in the fall.

    Staff received a letter request regarding the use of the term “mental retardation" in capital cases. In an effort to determine the feasibility of changing the term “mental retardation" to “intellectual disability" staff reviewed relevant statutes, including capital murder statutes. Staff also examined the use of the terminology in other states and whether there were any successful challenges to the term’s definition. Crime Commission members endorsed legislation for the 2017 Session of the General Assembly to replace the term “mental retardation" with “intellectual disability" throughout the capital murder statutes.

    Staff was also requested by letter to review the writ of habeas corpus in Virginia as it relates to the restrictions, statute of limitations, available remedies and relief, and actual innocence. Staff analyzed statutory and case law in Virginia and Texas, collected other literature on habeas corpus, examined cases of wrongful convictions, and gathered data from Virginia courts. Additionally, staff consulted with numerous stakeholders, including the Office of the Attorney General, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas, and the Office of the Attorney General of Texas.

    In addition to the bill referrals and letter requests, staff continued work on a number of ongoing studies: cigarette trafficking, DNA Notification Project, and asset forfeiture coordinator training. The Crime Commission has been involved with the issue of cigarette trafficking since 2012, and continued to monitor the issue in 2016 to address emerging problems -- primarily fraudulent business operations. Staff worked closely with numerous stakeholders to develop legislation in an effort to reduce fraudulent purchases of cigarettes and require documentation for the sale and distribution of large quantities of cigarettes.

    As a result of the Crime Commission’s 2015 study on asset forfeiture, members directed staff to work with law enforcement and prosecutors to help implement training that can be readily accessible to new asset forfeiture coordinators. Staff worked closely with these groups to coordinate and plan a statewide training for March 2017, which was recorded and available online. The Crime Commission remains involved in the Forensic Science Board’s DNA Notification Project. As part of this continued project, staff completed a comprehensive case file review and notified the next of kin for certain deceased defendants. Staff also began to reconstruct the entire database to verify the final notification status of each named defendant eligible for notification.

    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) and also acts as the Chair of the DNA Notification Subcommittee. The Crime Commission’s Executive Director is a member of the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission in accordance with the Code of Virginia § 19.2-163.02, as well as their Budget Committee. The Executive Director also serves on the Advisory Committee on Sexual and Domestic Violence pursuant to the Code of Virginia § 9.1-116.2(A).

    Detailed study presentations can be found on the Crime Commission’s website at: http://vscc.virginia.gov. The final 2016 Annual Report will be published in June 2017.