Thursday, November 7, 2013

Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission November 6, 2013 Meeting: Members Voted to Increase Child Pornography Sentences Without Any Legislative Oversight

First a reminder for readers. 
The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission is not a Legislative branch like the Virginia State Crime Commission . The VCSC is a judicial branch; they mainly conduct studies and gather data on sentencing guidelines in Virginia. 

I have previously posted about the VCSC  
-          September 9, 2013:
-          July 7, 2013:       
Yesterday November 6, 2013 the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission met in Richmond, their fourth and final meeting for 2013 and I attended. 

When yesterday’s Presentations  are finally loaded on the VCSC website you’ll be able to read the full proposals that I’m going to note in this post. 

The sentencing duration of a convicted offender for crimes in Virginia is determined with “Assessment Worksheets” based on the crimes being charged and points assigned to each offender based on an array of questions and history. These worksheets are created and maintained by the VCSC. 

There were 5 Proposals all voted on and approved by the members of VCSC and they will become law next July. Anything the VCSC recommends does not require a bill to be submitted at the upcoming General Assembly session. These proposals will be included in the VCSC December Report and unless a lawmaker (State Delegate or State Senator) proposes a bill in-time for the January 2014 session to stop a specific one, then these will all automatically become law in July 2014 with no discussion, no debate, no votes and no media attention. 

I will cover Proposals/Recommendations #1 through #3 in this post. 

Proposal/ Recommendation #1: 

Online Solicitation of a Child- § 18.2-374.3. 

Compliance with Sentencing Guidelines for Online Solicitation of a Child (§ 18.2-374.3) FY2009 – FY2013 (Preliminary)

-          Number of Cases-321 

Compliance = (59.2%) of Judges are sentencing within the current guidelines
Aggravation= (32.4%) of Judges are sentencing above the current guidelines
Mitigation=      (8.4%) of Judges are sentencing below the current guidelines 

So, in other words actual practice is not matching up with current sentencing guidelines (per 5 years of data) and the VCSC feels the need to adjust the sentences to reflect what is occurring in courthouses across the Commonwealth. 

To get real-life application and the legal statute to match up better the VCSC recommends the following: