A bill that attempts to take away the inherent authority the Supreme Court of Virginia says state judges have to defer and dismiss criminal charges cleared the House of Delegates today on a 76-22 vote.
House Bill 2513, patroned by Del. C. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock and supported by prosecutors and a host of law enforcement organizations, was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on Jan. 13 in Hernandez v. Commonwealth.
As amended, the proposed law says, “No court shall have the authority, upon a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or after a plea of not guilty, when the facts found by the court would justify a finding of guilt, to defer proceedings or to defer entry of a final order of guilt or to dismiss the case upon completion of terms and conditions except as provided by statute. In no case shall the court defer entry of a final order of guilt for more than 60 days following conclusion of all of the evidence.”
Ten state laws permit deferred judgment in certain instances, most notably for first-time drug offenses and domestic assault.
Prosecutors long have contended that judges lack the authority to defer judgment in any other cases, while defense attorneys contend that courts have the inherent authority to do so.
Defense attorneys contend that the legislature may be setting up a separation of powers issue in which courts could hold that the legislature lacks the power to limit their discretion.
By Alan Cooper