(The Center Square) – Lawmakers in the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates reached an agreement on legislation to expunge certain criminal records, but will need to continue working on a compromise for eliminating many of the state’s mandatory minimum sentences.
On Thursday, the Senate voted to approve House amendments for Senate Bill 1339, which makes it easier to expunge criminal records related to misdemeanor offenses and some nonviolent felony offenses. In Virginia, expungement does not destroy the records, but rather seals access to the records for most purposes.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, will now head to the governor’s desk for his signature. It passed both chambers with broad Democratic support and some Republican support. The House passed the legislation 58-41 and the Senate passed it 25-14.
Legislation that seeks to eliminate many of the state’s mandatory minimum sentences failed to reach an agreement on Thursday after the Senate rejected a House substitute of the legislation, Senate Bill 1443.
Mandatory minimum laws establish minimum sentencing requirements for certain crimes that judges are obligated to follow. Democratic lawmakers are seeking to repeal many of these laws, arguing that they tie the hands of judges and prevent them from looking at the uniqueness of each case. Republican leaders have criticized the effort, labeling it as soft on crime.
Some disagreements over which mandatory minimum obligations should be removed have held up the House and Senate passing agreed-upon legislation. Lawmakers will likely try to reach an agreement through a joint conference committee with lawmakers from both chambers.