Virginia legislators have proposed allowing young offenders to expunge some drug and alcohol convictions.
A new law has been proposed by Senator Ryan T. McDougal that would expunge some drug and alcohol convictions for young offenders. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, leading state lawmakers say they will introduce a bill that would expunge records for first-time marijuana and alcohol possession offenses for offenders under 21 years of age. The proposal has already gained some bipartisan support. If passed, the bill would follow a series of justice reforms in Virginia in recent years that have attempted to mitigate the harm a criminal record can cause after offenders serve their sentences.
The proposal was recently put forward by a leading state senator. If passed, the measure would allow those who were convicted of alcohol or marijuana possession, when they were under the age of 21, to expunge records of their first-offenses. However, the proposal would not actually change sentencing for the offenses. Instead, after completing their sentences, eligible offenders would have the chance to expunge their criminal records of the offenses. The law would only apply to possession and not trafficking or distribution offenses.
Proponents of the bill say it will prevent people from being held back later in life because of mistakes they committed while they were young. The bill is expected to receive at least some bipartisan support, particularly in the House of Delegates. The state senator behind the proposal insists it is one of the few criminal justice reforms that is likely to succeed in the upcoming legislative session.
The proposal is just the latest in a number of recent efforts at reforming some aspects of Virginia's criminal justice system. As the Washington Post reported earlier last year, Virginia also joined 14 other states by passing a "ban the box" measure for state agencies. The measure prohibits state agencies from asking potential employees on job applications, whether or not they have a criminal record. The measure applies only to state agencies and not to private businesses.
The state has also moved to make it easier for convicted felons who have served their sentences to regain their voting rights. All of these measures reflect a growing realization that a criminal record should not unduly hold back people who have a criminal conviction, especially after they have completed their sentences. Currently, a criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, apply for scholarships, or take advantage of other important opportunities.
While the above measures will certainly open up some opportunities to those who have served their time after a criminal conviction, it is important to realize that none of them actually change the severity of a sentence. Drug and alcohol sentences are still extremely serious and must be treated as such by anybody facing such criminal charges. A criminal defense attorney can assist those who have been charged with a crime, both by informing them of their legal rights and offering an aggressive defense.
At the law office of Timothy J. Quick, P.C., we have the ability to assist with expungements, whether they are for past offenses or in relation to this bill, if it passes.