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Criminal Justice Reform

Meaningful criminal justice reform is a key issue in our urban areas, where community safety must be balanced with fairness in our justice process. To address several of these issues, and at the express request of the cities I represent, I introduced several bills this session to address needed reform.  These efforts include bills that would make it easier for innocent people to have their arrest records expunged, and that make it possible for juvenile offenders who are now on the right track in life to have prior, non-violent misdemeanor convictions removed from their records.  We cannot afford to create roadblocks for truly reformed young people who get their lives back on track after learning from their mistakes the hard way. While I was able to gain bipartisan co-sponsorship for these bills, they were summarily killed by the Courts of Justice Committee.  With the encouragement and support of so many in our communities, I will continue toward these common sense reforms as long as I am your representative.

In 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and now 2020, I have introduced bills to decriminalize the simple possession of marijuana for personal use by adults, and to eliminate jail time for those who possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes for personal use. Currently, millions of dollars of your money is wasted every year to incarcerate otherwise law-abiding and productive adults who use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.  Many more resources are wasted when these same adults lose their jobs and livelihoods, and face other problems because of minor, non-violent drug records for offenses which are fully legal in the District of Columbia and a growing number of other states.  Under my legislation, as an alternative to conviction, jail, and a lifelong criminal record, adults committing no drug offense other than simple possession would receive a civil fine if apprehended. UPDATE: FINALLY, in 2020, my bill, HB265 was rolled into another piece of legislation and PASSED the General Assembly into law. On July 1, 2020, Virginia will finally decriminalize adult possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

In 2019 and again in 2020, I have filed bills to legalize and regulate marijuana in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Both of these bills were killed in subcommittees, BUT I was able to get HJ130 passed in 2020 which will set up a comprehensive study on marijuana legalization. Armed with that study, I will reintroduce my bill to legalize it in 2021.

Also in 2020, I am proud to have carried three bills protecting our rights in reforming our criminal justice system. House Bill 266 would ensure that full restitution is required to be paid to the victims of crime, but would stop the accrual of excessive interest on court fines and costs. House Bill 267 would provide for the expungement of criminal records of those acquitted of a crime, so that innocent citizens can clear their names and protect their futures. House Bill 268 would allow victims of human trafficking to remove certain offenses relating to trafficking from their records. All three of these bills were advanced to the Virginia Crime Commission for further study and future legislation.

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Steve Heretick for Delegate
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