Legislation reviewing and revising Commonwealth’s Attorney’s staffing and funding levels continued to 2021 Legislative Session

February 11, 2020

Senator Joe Morrissey and Delegate Marcus Simon introduced legislation this session that sought to review and drastically revise funding and staffing levels for Commonwealth’s Attorneys.  SB 803 (Morrissey) and HB 1035 (Simon) were sweeping in nature.

As introduced, the legislation would:

  • Prohibit the Compensation Board, when determining staffing and funding levels for offices of attorneys for the Commonwealth, from (i) considering the number of charges brought or the number of convictions obtained by such attorney for the Commonwealth; (ii) relying on standards devised or recommended by the attorney for the Commonwealth, law-enforcement agencies, or professional associations representing attorneys for the Commonwealth or law-enforcement officers; or (iii) using measures that increase if an attorney for the Commonwealth (a) elects to prosecute a more serious charge, (b) elects to prosecute additional charges from a single arrest or criminal incident, (c) obtains convictions rather than dismissing charges or offering reduced charges, or (d) proceeds with prosecution rather than diversion.
  • Require Attorneys for the Commonwealth to pay all fees collected by them in consideration of the performance of official duties or functions into the state treasury, instead of only half of such fees.
  • Require the State Treasurer to pay to the treasuries of the respective Counties and Cities of the attorneys for the Commonwealth a proportion of half of all such fees collected by all attorneys for the Commonwealth, as determined by each county or city’s crime rate, criminal incident rate, or arrest rate.
  • Change the fees collected by attorneys for the Commonwealth on trials of felony indictments from $40 on each count to $120 for each trial of a Class 1 or Class 2 felony indictment, or other felony that carries a possible penalty of life in prison, except robbery, and $40 for each trial on robbery and all other felony indictments regardless of the number of counts.

Given the sweeping and complex nature of the bill and subject matter, Senator Joe Morrissey and Delegate Marcus Simon agreed to continue SB 803 and HB 1035 to the 2021 legislative session and study the issue over the course of the next year.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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