Virginia courts could consider a defendant’s autism diagnoses under proposed law

BY: - February 1, 2021

Virginia lawmakers are advancing legislation that would allow more defendants in criminal cases to present evidence that they suffer from mental illness or intellectual disabilities. Current state code bars judges and juries from hearing such testimony before the sentencing phase of a trial except in cases in which a defendant pleads not guilty by reason […]

Every criminal justice reform that passed in Virginia after George Floyd’s death

BY: - November 11, 2020

Virginia lawmakers finalized a sprawling package of criminal justice reform bills this week as they gaveled out of a special legislative session that stretched nearly 12 weeks. Prompted by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the widespread outrage that followed, the hundreds of pages of legislation they adopted reflect years of pent-up demand […]

Correctional officers stand at the entrance to the Greensville Correctional Center on Nov. 10, 2009, near Jarratt, Virginia. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Thousands of Virginia prisoners could be released early under new earned sentence credit program

BY: - October 26, 2020

State prison officials estimate that more than 14,000 inmates in Virginia could see their release dates moved up under legislation awaiting Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature. The bill, backed by General Assembly Democrats and unanimously opposed by GOP lawmakers, would let inmates cut their sentences by a third as long as they weren’t convicted of certain […]

2020 was supposed to be a historic year for environmental funding in Virginia. Then came the pandemic.

BY: - October 26, 2020

2020 was supposed to be the year to make the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality great again.  After years of budget cuts to the agency charged with maintaining the health of the commonwealth’s air, water and lands, a surplus of funds in state coffers promised to put millions of dollars back into DEQ and add […]

Push to open police records to public inspection continues in Virginia

BY: - October 22, 2020

Police in Virginia almost never release case files and body camera footage, even long after their investigations have concluded. A bill aimed at changing that failed during the special legislative session, which concluded last week. But lawmakers are already working to revise the legislation in response to concerns raised by police about graphic crime scene […]

Virginia lawmakers get mixed reviews on police reform efforts

BY: - October 20, 2020

A special legislative session largely devoted to police reform in Virginia ended Friday with law enforcement groups sounding more comfortable with the package of bills that passed than activists who had been pushing for sweeping change following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. “At the end of the day, we didn’t make out so […]

Virginia lawmakers pass legislation to make Juneteenth a state holiday

BY: - October 20, 2020

By Sam Fowler/ Capital News Service Juneteenth has officially become a state holiday after lawmakers unanimously approved legislation during the Virginia General Assembly’s special session. Juneteenth marks the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached Texas, which was the last state to abolish slavery. The companion bills were introduced by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, and Del. […]

Virginia lawmakers vote to reform 224-year-old jury sentencing law

BY: - October 17, 2020

Virginia lawmakers passed a closely watched bill Friday aimed at ensuring people can exercise their right to a jury trial without risking much steeper punishments. Criminal justice reform advocates frequently called the legislation one of the most important changes the General Assembly could adopt during a special legislative session that has been largely devoted to […]

Virginia Democrats’ redistricting fight spills into special session budget talks

BY: - October 9, 2020

Last week, Virginia Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City, stood to try to extract a promise from Democratic leaders. Since the Senate was solidly behind the bipartisan redistricting commission voters will weigh in on next month, Norment asked, would Senate Democrats be willing to fight for it in budget negotiations with their counterparts in […]


A step in the right direction on police traffic stops

BY: - October 9, 2020

Too many times, over too many years, Black and brown motorists are pulled over by police for the flimsiest of purported reasons. Officers say it could be for a busted taillight, not using a turn signal, or other minor violations. These can be highly charged, anxious encounters — for law-enforcement officials and drivers alike. But […]

Virginia lawmakers vote to limit use of chokeholds by police, but reject outright ban

BY: - October 7, 2020

The General Assembly sent a bill establishing rules for how police officers use chokeholds to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk Wednesday after the Senate rejected a blanket ban on the maneuver and felony penalties proposed by lawmakers in the House of Delegates. The legislation, introduced in response to the death of George Floyd under the knee […]


The budget conference: the secretive, transactional process where a dozen people write Virginia law

BY: - October 5, 2020

In the wee hours of an unseasonably balmy, humid Sunday in mid-March, legislative staff on the ninth and 10th floors of Capitol Square’s decrepit, old General Assembly Building had opened their windows wide to mitigate the swelter from unrelenting, clanking steam radiators. Beyond exhaustion from a week of late nights, many hours of work lay […]