Tuesday night, I visited the union hall of Local #5016, International Union of Police Associations, to celebrate their annual Christmas party.
Local 5016 (also known as the “Fairfax Coalition of Police and Deputy Sheriffs”) was a huge help to me in the campaign. They endorsed my challenger candidacy, when few groups would, and their membership worked hard on my behalf.
The party was attended by a number of local politicos, including Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Centreville). Over a holiday cold one, we discussed a cause that we have in common as trial lawyers.
Right now, there is a $200 threshold for felonies in Virginia. In other words, if you are convicted of stealing property valued at $201, then you are charged with a felony which gives you a year minimum in the state penitentiary and marks your record for life.
Sounds rough. It is. Every other state in the union has upgraded their felony threshold as a result. For example, in North Carolina the threshold is $1,000.
In 2003, I brought a bill to double the Virginia level to $400, the first change since 1979. It was defeated, after the Retail Merchants Association (e.g. Wal-Mart) spoke against it. Both the defense attorney and prosecutor groups spoke in favor of my reform bill.
This year, with a budget crunch, it’s time to revisit this issue. Both Senator Cuccinelli and I are looking at that law as a way to reform our sentencing laws and even save some state money on incarceration.
And you know what …. the leadership of Local 5016 supports our effort. Because they are tired of charging felonies for crimes that should be misdemeanors.
Keep an eye on this issue in 2008.