General Assembly passes attorney general’s public safety bills

mark herringAs the General Assembly adjourned Friday, Attorney General Mark R. Herring highlighted the passage of several bills from his office to address Virginia’s heroin and prescription drug crisis, to protect children, seniors, and survivors of domestic violence, and to promote public safety throughout Virginia. This package of bills, now on its way to Governor Terry McAuliffe for his consideration, represents a strong bipartisan collaboration between Attorney General Herring and lawmakers to address a variety of public safety issues facing the Commonwealth.

“From measures to combat heroin, to laws to help keep domestic violence victims safe, these bills will save lives and make the Commonwealth a safer place,” said Attorney General Herring. “These bills came from the experiences and concerns of parents, Virginia law enforcement, and victims, all of whom have a unique and valuable perspective on public safety issues facing the Commonwealth. I look forward to reporting back to them all about the progress we’ve made as a state on a very diverse set of issues. I’m disappointed that we weren’t able to come to an agreement on a stronger state-level drug induced homicide statute, but we will keep working to find an appropriate way to ensure that dealers are held accountable when their drugs lead to a death.”

Attorney General Herring’s bills included:



HB1500 – Safe Reporting (Carr, McClellan, O’Bannon, Rasoul, Rust): This bill will encourage reporting of overdoses in progress by establishing an affirmative defense for minor possession or intoxication crimes if a person reports an overdose, remains on the scene, and identifies themselves as the reporter. Safe reporting provisions currently exist in 21 other states and the District of Columbia.

HB1458 – Statewide Naloxone Expansion (Carr, Hodges, O’Bannon, Rust): Naloxone is a prescription drug that counteracts the effects of a heroin or prescription opioid overdose. This bill expands the current naloxone pilot project to authorize naloxone use by any law enforcement agency in the Commonwealth. It also provides immunity to law enforcement who administer the drug. Similar authorization currently exists in 23 states. According to the Centers for Disease Control, naloxone successfully reversed more than 10,000 overdoses between 1996 and 2010.

SB817 – Access to PMP by Probation Officers (Howell): This bill will allow probation officers to access Virginia’s Prescription Monitoring Program to ensure their probationers are not getting opioid prescriptions they are not authorized to have.



HB1946/SB919 – Administrative Subpoena in cases of exploitation (Wexton, McClellan): HB1946/SB919 will allow for a prosecutor to prohibit an internet service provider from tipping off someone who has produced, distributed, or downloaded child pornography so the criminal won’t destroy evidence or flee prosecution. The bills also allow prosecutors to find out the identity of someone posting online advertisements for sexual encounters with children or victims of human trafficking. Such requests have been available to prosecutors and investigators since 2007, and by keeping such requests under seal for 30 days, prosecutors and investigators can more effectively go after these predators and criminals.

HB1908 – Powdered Alcohol (Lopez): This bill bans the importation, sale, possession, and use of powdered or crystalline alcohol to keep this dangerous out of the hands of children.



HB2120 – Strangulation (Cline, Bell, Gilbert): This bill protects victims of domestic violence by denying bail for individuals charged with felony strangulation, allowing survivors to access the services they need to prevent re-victimization. In 2012, then-Senator Herring and Delegate Cline worked to make strangulation a felony, closing a loophole that had previously allowed some domestic abusers to avoid the consequences of their actions.



HB1558 – Adult Fatality Review Team (Rust): This bill allows localities to create adult fatality review teams to review suspicious, unusual and unnatural deaths for those over the age of 60 and disabled persons under the age of 18.



HB1611 – Assault and Battery on Law Enforcement Officers (Miller, Bell, Cline): This bill clarifies that it is a Class 6 felony to commit an assault against law enforcement officials regardless of where in the Commonwealth their public duties are performed.

HB1927/SB1290 – Default Trial Venue for Murder Cases (Bell, Stuart): This bill will allow murder trials to occur in the locality where a defendant lives or was arrested if the location of the alleged murder cannot be determined.

SB1156 – Habeas Corpus Respondents (Edwards): This bill will streamline certain criminal appeals by clarifying which agent or representative of the Commonwealth should be named in the convicted person’s appeal.

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