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Friday, April 21, 2017

Legislative Goal #12 for a Smarter Sex Offender Registry in Virginia – Add Sexual Misdemeanor Convictions to Virginia’s Writs of Actual Innocence


And the final Goal to be posted is…………….Goal #12; Add Sexual Misdemeanor convictions to Virginia’s Writs of Actual Innocence. 

If you agree with this goal please ask your one Virginia Delegate and one Senator to Patron/Sponsor a Bill at the next Virginia General Assembly session in January 2018.  Our VA GA. sessions begin the second Wednesday of every January so you should make your request somewhere between May and early-November.  
 

You could make your request via email, via phone or even schedule a meeting with your Delegate and Senator to discuss the issues that concern you as their constituent and then propose a Bill or two at that meeting.  

If they decline to Patron/Sponsor the Bill, ask them why 

If their concerns can be addressed, address it. If not let them know you’ll be in a touch again in a month or 2, then pick a different goal and ask them to sponsor that new proposal and if they decline, again ask them why 

If their concerns can be addressed, address it. 

If not (they may say I just don’t want to patron that), then select another goal and ask them again in 2+ months to sponsor that Bill, persistence pays off!  

Even if they don’t agree to be a Sponsor they will know:
  1. If they give you a legitimate reason not to Sponsor you will return with facts and data to alleviate those concerns.
  2. If they don’t give a legitimate reason not to Sponsor a Bill you are willing to point out empirical evidence should be the reason laws are proposed not emotion, myth and hate.
  3. That you will continue to return to them asking for Sponsorship as a constituent in their District.
  4. That you are a registered voter (hopefully) and these issues are very important to you and your family members (also voters, hopefully) and so every November they are up for reelection you and your family will be making your selection based on a candidates willingness to listen to reason and data.
You are their constituent, you are a tax-payer and hopefully a voter, they must listen to your concerns and proposals. If you aren’t sure how to address their reason/denial to sponsor a particular Bill that came from my Legislative Goals list, email me at marydavyedevoy@comcast.net with:
  1. The # of Goal you requested
  2. Which VA Legislator you asked
  3. The reason they gave you not to sponsor the Bill
If I can help you find a solution to deliver to your Delegate or Senator, I will. 

Mary Devoy 

Goal #12: 

Most Virginia misdemeanor sexual offenses mandate the person register as a Sex Offender for a minimum of 15 years, sometimes the judge adds it in the plea deal even if the statute doesn’t require it. But yet a plea deal in Virginia can not exclude registration as a Sex Offender, if the statute mandates it, there’s no way around it.  

Placement of the VSP Sex Offender Registry for a misdemeanor conviction is 15+ years of significant barriers in obtaining an education, housing and employment. In addition their movement in public places and their participation in their family's lives have been written into Virginia Code so that ANY violation results in a new felony, even though the original conviction was a misdemeanor!  

Today a Virginia Writ of Actual Innocence requires the conviction to be a felony AND for the defendant to have pleaded not guilty which means they went to trial and were found to be guilty.  

Currently there are efforts to remove the requirement that a plea of not guilty was made for a Writ, which makes sense because less than 6% of criminal cases in VA go to trial. The rest are settled with a deal presented by the Commonwealth Attorney where the defendant took either an Alford Plea or a Guilty Plea to get a reduced sentenced.  

But no one is working on adding sexual misdemeanors to Virginia’s Writs when it should have been added years ago.  

A misdemeanor isn’t supposed to follow you forever, a misdemeanor isn’t supposed to restrict or ban you from:
·                Employment  
·                Volunteering
·                Small Business Loans
·                HUD Housing
·                SNAP benefits
·                Earned Veterans benefits
·                International Travel

Or carry a felony punishment for any administrative slip-up. But for misdemeanor sex offenses these are not only possibilities, but reality.

If a victim or a witness recants their claim/testimony OR a new witness comes forward with evidence that could prove a RSO is innocent then that RSO should have an avenue to get the conviction overturned and to be removed from the VSP Registry. But today there is no process to do this. 

This is why sexual misdemeanors should be added to Virginia’s Writ of Actual Innocence.  

Otherwise the innocent Non-Violent RSO must wait a minimum of 15 years (mandated by VA law) before they can petition the court for removal from the VSP Registry, which could easily be denied by a judge who doesn't want to take the risk. And in the end their wrongful conviction remains on their record.  

Any new change needs to include those convictions prior to the 2006 and 2008 Virginia General Assemblies where some sexual misdemeanors were elevated to felonies and the Virginia State Police took those changes in law and retroactively applied them to current RSO’s. This increased their classification from Non-Violent to Violent and made them all “Lifers” with no opportunity to ever petition for removal.  

To force an innocent Virginian to endure the shame, the pain and the barriers that come with being listed on the VSP Registry simply because it wasn't a felony is truly cruel and unusual punishment.