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State Senate OKs bill giving judges flexibility on certain non-violent criminals

RICHMOND—The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that will give judges leeway in sentencing non-violent criminals who have intellectual disabilities.

The bill, from Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford, would let judges defer and dismiss a case against a defendant with autism or an intellectual disability. It wouldn’t apply to violent felonies, Stuart said.

Stuart said he wanted to give judges some flexibility.

It is “heartbreaking,” he said, to see a defendant being tried for a crime with severe repercussions “and that person is not insane but he doesn’t understand what he did wrong, because of that developmental disability.”

His bill, Stuart said, would let judges take that into consideration and try to structure a way to help the person, “and hopefully try to help them navigate that without forcing them into an unjust sentence.”

Sen. Tom Garrett, R–Louisa, spoke against the bill.

“I am frightened by the possibility that one person, one jurist, could put in place a deferred disposition of the case of the most egregious circumstances,” Garrett said.

He said the bill could create situations in which victims’ rights were ignored.

Stuart’s bill passed on a 33–6 vote.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245


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