Va Gov. Northam signs COVID-19, criminal justice reform legislation into law
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has inked his signature to 16 new laws including some related to criminal justice reform in the Commonwealth.
Half of the laws signed by Northam are related to the state’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, but much of the focus of the General Assembly’s Special Session was what law changes would be proposed and passed in regards to policing and criminal justice reforms.
Northam signed three criminal justice reform laws, one of which allows the Attorney General to open investigations related to a pattern or practice of misconduct among law enforcement officers, another that increases the penalty for giving false reports to police based on things like an individual’s race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation, and a third that requires judges to dismiss charges when both the prosecution and defense agree.
One law that Northam is requesting amendments be made is a proposal to limit police officer authority to initiate traffic stops in certain instances, in part to allow officers to conduct a traffic stop if a driver does not have their headlights on at night or if their brakelights are out. Other parts of the proposal that Northam did not ask for amendments to be made to includes limiting police from stopping or searching on the basis of the odor of marijuana in the car, stopping a pedestrian for jaywalking on getting onto a highway where they cannot be seen, and conducting a traffic stop on a vehicle for expired safety inspection or registration sticker until the first day of the fourth month after the original expiration date.
Photo Courtesy: Gov. Northam Official Photo