By: Mike McDaniel The United States of America is without peer in generosity, not only of pocketbook, but of spirit. No nation in history has been as altruistic, and as willing to sacrifice blood and treasure for the welfare of others. We give foreign aid–at last count just under $50 billion per year–to 96% of all nations in the world. The amount is likely considerably larger as the means for determining what, exactly, is “foreign aid” are remarkably flexible.
I am interested in overcriminalization. I think legislatures tend to not trust judges with sentencing decisions. What should be done is more judicial discretion and then make sure solid discreet men and women should be appointed to the bench as a priority.
In my efforts to try to find opportunities to give chances to young offenders to reform and repent rather than incarceration (the system that has obviously failed in this nation) I came up with the grand larceny threshold (not claiming it as my idea – I learned it as a member of the Richmond Crusade for Voters which I think I still am!) that I advocated at this blog today.
Now I found this statute recently: The Alabama Youthful Offender Act. Here’s the first and next to last section of this statute:
(a) A person charged with a crime which was committed in his minority but was not disposed of in juvenile court and which involves moral turpitude or is subject to a sentence of commitment for one year or more shall, and, if charged with a lesser crime may be investigated and examined by the court to determine whether he should be tried as a youthful offender, provided he consents to such examination and to trial without a jury where trial by jury would otherwise be available to him. If the defendant consents and the court so decides, no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information unless otherwise ordered by the court as provided in subsection (b) of this section.
(b) After such investigation and examination, the court, in its discretion, may direct that the defendant be arraigned as a youthful offender, and no further action shall be taken on the indictment or information; or the court may decide that the defendant shall not be arraigned as a youthful offender, whereupon the indictment or information shall be deemed filed.
(a) No determination made under the provisions of this chapter shall disqualify any youth for public office or public employment, operate as a forfeiture of any right or privilege or make him ineligible to receive any license granted by public authority, and such determination shall not be deemed a conviction of crime; provided, however, that if he is subsequently convicted of crime, the prior adjudication as youthful offender shall be considered.
(b) The fingerprints and photographs and other records of a person adjudged a youthful offender shall not be open to public inspection; provided, however, that the court may, in its discretion, permit the inspection of papers or records.
What this means is if an offender is under 21 (the age of majority at the time this law was passed and apparently that is what the Alabama Supreme Court held in 1997) and the offender is placed in the Youthful Offender status, and IF the offender complies with all terms, the offense is treated as if it was not an conviction (except for sentencing for a future offense, if any) and he or she is not a felon. they can vote, hold office and be a upright citizen of the state and nation. (I am not sure how this law affects the right under Federal law to own or possess a firearm.)
Florida has a similar law. This is the pertinent section of this statute:
958.04 Judicial disposition of youthful offenders.—
(1) The court may sentence as a youthful offender any person:(a) Who is at least 18 years of age or who has been transferred for prosecution to the criminal division of the circuit court pursuant to chapter 985;(b) Who is found guilty of or who has tendered, and the court has accepted, a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to a crime that is, under the laws of this state, a felony if the offender is younger than 21 years of age at the time sentence is imposed; and(c) Who has not previously been classified as a youthful offender under the provisions of this act; however, a person who has been found guilty of a capital or life felony may not be sentenced as a youthful offender under this act.
(2) In lieu of other criminal penalties authorized by law and notwithstanding any imposition of consecutive sentences, the court shall dispose of the criminal case as follows:(a) The court may place a youthful offender under supervision on probation or in a community control program, with or without an adjudication of guilt, under such conditions as the court may lawfully impose for a period of not more than 6 years. Such period of supervision may not exceed the maximum sentence for the offense for which the youthful offender was found guilty. (Blogger’s note: Words bolded were done by me)
The records of a youthful offender are sealed as well. I draw your attention to the bolded words: “with or without an adjudication of guilt”. Now I am not allowed to practice law in Florida but I would say if a Virginia law had words like that it means that if the court chooses, he or she may give the adult but youthful offender the chance to keep his or her record clean. (There is a fierce debate among and between the judiciary and the General Assembly about diversion of adult felonies in cases where the statute does not specifically authorize it.) The Florida law states that only capital or felonies with a maximum life sentence are beyond the reach of this law.
What’s the point Sanders? I would not say Florida or Alabama are liberal jurisdictions (although Florida is more progressive than Alabama by far!) yet they found these laws to be helpful to the administration of justice. It might be good incentive to give some young adult offenders a one time chance (especially if it is a non-violent offense) to keep a record clean.
Perhaps it might be good to study these laws (another study bill!) or even discuss and debate a Virginia Youthful Offender Act. (We have acts for such offenders in this Commonwealth but they do not expunge or seal a record but rather mitigate the sentence to boot camp or similar program.) I am not yet advocating such a law or how far the law should go but overcriminalization and incarceration needs new answers. This post could start such a debate.
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders
Yet another area I have become keenly interested in is the grand larceny threshold. Part of overcriminalization is the proliferation of felony offenses that then bar offenders from voting and some professions.
The value threshold that converts larceny (common law term for theft) from a misdemeanor to a felony is only $200 and that has not been changed since the 80s. Other states have increased their felony threshold to at least $500 and some much more (and I looked up the statute for each state cited!):
- DC – $1000
- MD – Also $1000
- NC – Also a grand (So is West Virginia!)
- Delaware – $1500
- PA is a whopping $2000!
Even Alabama has a $500 threshold, Mississippi a thousand dollars, Georgia $1500 and South Carolina is $2000!
In light of that, Republican Senator Reeves introduced this bill raising the grand larceny threshold to $500:
SB 23 Grand larceny; increases threshold amount of money taken, etc.
SUMMARY AS INTRODUCED:
Grand larceny; threshold. Increases from $200 to $500 the threshold amount of money taken or value of goods or chattel taken at which the crime rises from petit larceny to grand larceny. The bill increases the threshold by the same amount for the classification of certain property crimes.
The other patron is my new hero, Del. Sam Rasoul! The costs of felony prosecutions are greater by definition than misdemeanor ones (the payment for the court-appointed attorney is generally larger to start with) and it would place the Old Dominion in line with most of its sister states, even Deep South ones like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina.
I invite the members of the General Assembly to “steal” this idea and at least raise the threshold to $500 (I think $1500 or $2000 is too much – maybe $1000 is about right but $500 is a good start.) and prevent some future over-criminalization. My next blog entry might shock the readers and the General Assembly!
Article written by: Elwood "Sandy" Sanders