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The original item was published from 8/28/2012 11:44:16 AM to 7/19/2016 12:00:08 AM.

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Commonwealth's Attorney

Posted on: July 18, 2012

[ARCHIVED] Guest Opinion: Progress Seen Across Party Lines on Public Safety

July 18, 2012

Contact: Heather F. Williamson
Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office
20 East Market Street
Leesburg, VA 20176-2809
(703) 777-0242



With July upon us, many of our thoughts are rightly focused on our nation’s independence and the struggles and sacrifices that our forefathers endured to lay the foundation for future generations.
July 1 is also a time in the Commonwealth of Virginia when many of the laws enacted by the Virginia General Assembly take effect. Each General Assembly session has its fair share of politically sensitive legislation that commands a majority of media attention and the 2012 session was no exception.

There were, however, several bipartisan bills put forth as part of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s public safety initiative that, unfortunately, may have been overlooked, and the public should be aware of them. These efforts are ones that provide strong tools to prosecutors and law enforcement officers on the street in their ongoing efforts to maintain safe communities. While there are too many to list, we would like to highlight a few of significance.

In an effort for the law to keep pace with the ongoing science involved in illegal narcotics, HB508 and SB273, put forth by Del. Scott Garrett (R-23rd) and Sen. Ralph Smith (R-19th), expand criminal narcotics cases to include synthetic stimulants and classes of chemicals designed to mimic cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and other harmful agents, some of which are referred to as “spice” or “bath salts.” Some of these chemical compounds have numerous and lasting side effects while others still have unknown health consequences. Complimenting this effort to battle drugs in our communities was HB 968 and SB 159, introduced by Del. Rob Bell (R-58th) and Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26th), which establishes enhanced penalties for repeat offenders convicted of dealing or manufacturing illegal narcotics and requiring mandatory minimums on prison sentences.
Another significant issue that we see in the courts is the unfortunate number of occurrences of domestic violence and the harmful impact it has on families. With the support of the governor’s Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Advisory Board, Del. Ben Cline (R-24th) and Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) drafted HB752 and SB459. These bills not only enhance the penalties for specific acts of physical violence in domestic cases, but closed loopholes in the code that could have hindered prosecution and accountability. The board also supported HB1033 and SB 445, crafted by Del. Jennifer McClellan (D-71st) and Sen. Jill Vogel (R-27th) which tightened up discrepancies with respect to a court’s ability to modify, extend or dissolve an existing protective order while ensuring the prompt availability of those changes to law enforcement information systems. These adjustments to the code notably enhance victim safety and serve to promote timely and accurate enforcement of protective orders.

While these are just two areas of the law that have been enhanced by McDonnell’s Public Safety initiative, I would encourage everyone to learn more about other bi-partisan legislative efforts, such as those that address child abuse, protect the elderly from financial exploitation or GPS legislation that gives law enforcement greater tools to track criminals.

It’s encouraging to see that when the political dust settles in Richmond, common ground is found across party lines in matters that are critical to the safety of Virginia and the protection of its citizenry.

Jim Plowman
Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Jim Fisher
Fauquier County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Paul Ebert
Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney

Paul Walther
Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney


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