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New Bills to Watch from the Virginia General Assembly 2024

Virginia General Assembly 2024

Keep an eye out: New legislation proposed in the Virginia General Assembly 2024

In the Virginia General Assembly, new laws are being proposed by way of Senate Bills and House Bills in the 2024 session. Although not every bill will make it through the system to be signed into law by the Governor, as the first month of the session draws to a close it is worth taking note of proposed legislation as at least some of these proposed new Virginia laws will become part of the Code of Virginia in some form or fashion.

Proposed Virginia firearm legislation 2024

There have been a number of bills already presented pertaining to firearms. One of the most prominent initiatives is firearm safety. Specifically, locking mechanisms for firearms sold by dealers and firearms possessed when minors reside in the residence. Perhaps in response to the high-profile case of a mother prosecuted after her 6-year-old son obtained her firearm and shot his teacher , there have been a number of bills put forward requiring safety devices on firearms in Virginia. These include, but are not limited to, House Bill 12 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB12), House Bill 158 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB158), and House Bill 351 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB351).

There have also been bills put forward by both the Virginia Senate (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+SB2) and House (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB2) criminalizing as a class 1 misdemeanor the importation, sale, manufacture, purchase, possession, transportation, or transfer of an assault firearm or sale of a sale of a large capacity ammunition feeding device.

Some say the best defense is a good offense, and House Bill 1235 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB1235) seems to agree with that motto. This Bill proposes that people who obtain a protective order who are not otherwise prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or transporting a firearm will be given a 45-day right to carry a concealed firearm (from the date the protective order is issued), even if they don’t otherwise have such a concealed carry permit. Normally, Virginia residents must petition the court for such a permit. 

Proposed Virginia DWI/DUI legislation 2024

While impairment due to marijuana consumption is generally a tricky element to prove, House Bill 1102 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB1102) proposes a presumption of intoxication if a person has a blood concentration equal to or greater than 0.003 milligrams of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol per liter of blood. Interestingly, impact statements associated with this Bill state that they cannot estimate the impact on the jail population, or costs and burdens on the Virginia Department of Forensic Science and local jails. In my estimation, it would be significant.

Although specialty dockets are not particularly common in Virginia, Senate Bill 6 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+SB6) proposes that a restricted license may be sought without a 3-year waiting period whenever a court enters a defendant’s DWI/DUI conviction’s final order after the successful completion of a Veterans Treatment Court Program, behavioral health docket, or other specialty docket. 

House Bill 850 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB850) clarifies and expands the petition process for license restoration in cases where involuntary manslaughter results from driving under the influence. Five years from the date of conviction, Virginia motorists may petition to have their license reinstated, subject to terms and conditions deemed necessary by the court.

As you probably suspect or already know, DWI/DUI charges in Virginia carry significant financial costs to the accused. They’re potentially going to get steeper, as Senate Bill 690 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+SB690) proposes an increase in VASAP costs from $300 to $350. 

Proposed Virginia Drug/Narcotics Legislation 2024

Once again, an attempt is being made to classify deaths resulting from distribution of narcotics as felony homicide. House Bill 1097 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB1097) and Senate Bill 52 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+SB52) renew an earlier effort to make this happen. Felony homicide carries a potential penalty of 5 to 40 years in prison, and this Bill would impose such a charge “if the underlying felonious act that resulted in the killing of another involved the manufacture, sale, gift, or distribution of a Schedule I or II controlled substance to another and such other person’s use of the controlled substance results in his death.”

The Virginia drug first offender program is very favorable to defendants who have never had a drug conviction; however, there have been a number of situations where a previous conviction for misdemeanor possession (including for marijuana) has derailed the accused’s ability to avoid a felony conviction. Senate Bill 362 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+SB362) makes a sensible proposal to allow for first offender deferral and dismissal so long as the accused has no prior felony drug convictions.

Going against the accused is House Bill 439 (https://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?241+sum+HB439), which adds mandatory penalties for second or subsequent felony drug possession: (i) a second offense within less than five years shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 days and a mandatory minimum fine of $500; (ii) a second offense within 10 years shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of 45 days and a mandatory minimum fine of $500; (iii) three offenses within 10 years shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days and a mandatory minimum fine of $500, unless the three offenses were committed within a five-year period, in which case the sentence shall include a mandatory minimum sentence of confinement for six months and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000; and (iv) a fourth or subsequent offense within 10 years shall include a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of one year and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.

The Bill also includes a modest period of driver’s license suspension for these recidivist crimes. Overall, the Bill comes as a bit of a surprise as many people recognize the non-violent and complicated nature of drug addiction.

What’s Next for Virginia laws in 2024?

Keep in mind that these are Bills and are not necessarily the final versions of laws. The Bills may also fail entirely. At the moment, the Virginia Democrats enjoy a strong showing in the House and Senate, which generally can be interpreted as a good sign for Bills focusing on rehabilitation rather than enhanced punishment. But all politicians will want to show their electorate that they take crime seriously, and so Bills proposed by either party that enhance penalties (such as those relating to firearm safety) may enjoy bi-partisan support. Only time will tell which Bills are successful.


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