Senator Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) is a patron for a bill that would expunge records of her current felony charges if passed.
Senate Bill 5043 originally was designed to expunge criminal records relating to marijuana possession and open container violations. The latest version of the bill is much more expanded. It covers 76 crimes – many of them felonies.
Starting with line 605, the latest version of the bill includes all of the crimes with deferred or dismissed convictions that qualify for automatic expungement. Lucas is facing charges for injuring any property or monument under 18.2-137 in the Code of Virginia – one of the crimes listed.
In an interview with The Virginia Star, Virginia attorney Tim Anderson stated that Lucas stands to benefit from the bill whether or not the court finds her guilty.
“It’s the perfect insurance policy for her, because if she gets convicted [the record] gets expunged automatically eight years after,” he said. “At the very least, she shouldn’t be a part of the conversation. If she beats her criminal case, she also benefits because the law orders that any cases that are dismissed to be automatically expunged.”
Anderson added that he disagrees with the new, expanded version of the bill as a whole.
“The idea that you can automatically expunge criminal records should be concerning for any person who cares about law and order. There could be a provision for a judge to do this on a case by case basis – but this is going to be automatic,” he said. “One of these cases is dealing with family abuse: someone who is threatening family abuse and being aggressive to their family. That record is important [for a judge] to determine if a person is violent or not.”
In a live video posted on Tuesday, Anderson shared more details about Lucas’s involvement in the bill.
Anderson also shared with The Star that the bill hasn’t officially been passed. Some senators indicated that the bill may not come up again until after the election. Otherwise, Senate Democrats may decide to reconvene and vote on the bill with a 48 hour notice.
Lucas is also the chair of a commission that plans to spend $500,000 to remove a Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol.
The Star asked Sen. Lucas whether she plans to recuse herself from the bill, and why the legislators decided to include more crimes as worthy of expungement. Sen. Lucas’s spokespersons didn’t respond with comment by press time.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Background Photo “Virginia Capitol” by Taber Andrew Bain. CC BY 2.0