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Anti-‘Hernandez’ bill advances

The House Courts of Justice committee on Friday voted 11-to-4 to report legislation designed to eliminate judges’ discretion to delay findings of guilt in many criminal cases.

House Bill 750, sponsored by Del. Ben Cline, R-Amherst, would bar deferred disposition in any case where the facts would justify a finding of guilt unless the prosecutor agrees.

Cline explained the bill was helped by state budget experts who said the measure could save the state $6 million a year for court services to monitor the defendants. Budget officials reported at least 1,337 defendants had their cases deferred in the last fiscal year, Cline said.

A substitute version of Cline’s original bill includes the exception for cases where the prosecutor, defendant and judge all agree on deferred disposition. A measure that would have set a 60-day deadline for judges to rule on guilt in all cases was eliminated.
By Peter Vieth


  1. Wow! Nothing like the General Assembly setting up a constitutional conflict over the separation of powers between the branches of government.

    The Supreme Court declares that the power to defer is part of the Court’s inherent authority; this means that the power is not and cannot be constrained, restricted or elimiated by the legislature nor by the Executive.

    Now, the legislature wants to restrict that which has already been declared to be beyond the reach of the legislative branch.

    I can only conclude that the General Assembly members either do not understand the concept of “inherent authority”, or they do not care what that concept means.

    And when a criminal conviction is properly reversed on constitutional grounds, our Commonwealth and its citizens will suffer as a result of the folly of our legislature’s ill-advised actions.

  2. Most Hernandez cases involve people who have never been in trouble before; who will most likely never be in trouble again; and who made an impulsive or reckless decision to violate the law by conduct that was very brief in duration. Unfortunately, the record of the conviction lasts forever. Convictions cannot be expunged and their existence damages job opportunities and career advancements.

    We all make mistakes; do things we regret; but hopefully learn from the experience. Most Hernandez “candidates” will learn from the anxiety and humiliation of the criminal justice process. Community service assists our community at large and is often ample punishment.

    To the Legislators who are considering an effort to modify Hernandez, please be advised when one of your best constiuents or, perhaps, a relative briefly slips and falls in a manner contrary to our Code of Virginia you will see the wisdom of the “second chance” afforded deserving citizens by the wisdom of the Virginia Supreme Court.

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