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Lawmakers advance bills eliminating mandatory minimums

Lawmakers in both chambers of the General Assembly advanced criminal justice reform measures that would eliminate mandatory minimums in favor of allowing judges more sentencing discretion.

Senate Bill 1443, introduced by Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke), narrowly passed Friday on a 21-17 vote.

The bill proposes to eliminate mandatory minimum prison sentences in Virginia for various crimes, including aggravated involuntary manslaughter, child pornography and violating a protective order for abuse victims. The legislation does not include Class 1 felonies such as willful and deliberate murder.

Lawmakers in support of the bill emphasized that judges should be trusted to deliver the appropriate sentences without utilizing a sentencing policy that they say has been abused. Critics said the bill dismantled the criminal justice policies in place after years of deliberation.

Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) said during the bill’s committee hearing last month that mandatory minimum ...

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