Gov. Northam announces proposed criminal justice reform agenda for 2020

Decriminalizing marijuana part of proposed legislation

RICHMOND, Va. – On Friday, Gov. Ralph Northam has announced his criminal justice reform agenda for 2020.

Here are some of the topics he touched on in the proposed legislation:

Decriminalization of marijuana

Instead of simple possession of marijuana being a criminal offense, the governor has proposed a $50 civil fine.

According to the governor’s office, studies show that in Virginia, African Americans are much more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white residents.

If the legislation is passed, it would also clear the records of individuals who have been previously convicted of simple possession.

Raise the felony larceny threshold to $1,000

Last year, the governor signed legislation that raised the felony larceny threshold to $500 — the first time it had been raised since 1980.

According to Northam’s office, the proposed increase will bring Virginia up to par with other states and also ensure that one mistake does not ruin the rest of someone’s life.

Permanent elimination of driver’s license suspension for unpaid fines, fees and court costs

Last year, the commonwealth did away with suspending licenses for unpaid fines and fees. Since then, Northam’s office says more than 50,000 Virginians have had their licenses reinstated.

If this legislation passes, it would ensure that change is permanent.

Parole reform

The governor is hoping to expand the eligibility for parole consideration to people based on their age and certain medical conditions.

This would also apply to anyone impacted by the Fishback v. Commonwealth case.

Investment in criminal justice reform

Northam’s proposed budget includes $4.6 million for pre-trial and probation services, funding for a new public defender’s office in Prince William County and more public defender positions across the Commonwealth to reduce caseload.

The budget also includes $2 million for pre-release and post-incarceration services.


For a full list of Northam’s criminal justice proposals, click here.