Wednesday, November 04, 2015

The new venue statute

In 2015, the General Assembly amended Va. Code 19.2-244, to add a new paragraph B, which provides:

B. If an offense has been committed within the Commonwealth and it cannot readily be determined within which county or city the offense was committed, venue for the prosecution of the offense may be had in the county or city (i) in which the defendant resides; (ii) if the defendant is not a resident of the Commonwealth, in which the defendant is apprehended; or (iii) if the defendant is not a resident of the Commonwealth and is not apprehended in the Commonwealth, in which any related offense was committed.

The primary sponsor of the legislation, Acts 2015, c. 632, was Rob Bell. This is a pretty big change in Virginia law, that eliminates a problem that sometimes occurs in a case where there is no way to know where the alleged crime was committed. The language evidently was taken from similar statutes in other statutes, such as O.R.S. 131.325 in Oregon and Tex Code Crim. Proc. article 13.19. One might expect that cases from those states will be cited in connection with the application of the new Virginia law. It is a bit of a paradox for the Commonwealth to be required to prove that something "cannot readily be determined," but there are evidently many such cases, where the Commonwealth or the victim has reason to know that the crime took place in Virginia but not where it happened in relation to the boundaries of the cities and counties.

In some of the other states, the constitutionality of these statutes has been challenged. There is a "vicinage" requirement in the Virginia Constitution, Art. I, section 8, but surely a prosecution where the defendant resides satisfies that requirement.

New Commonwealth's attorneys and others in Southwest Virginia

Evidently, we will have new Commonwealth's Attorneys in Lee County, Wise County, Dickenson County, and Washington County, and a somewhat less new one elected to an open seat in Tazewell County. Incumbents were re-elected in Scott County, Buchanan County, Carroll County, Grayson County, Wythe County, and Smyth County - and in Russell County, where former blogger Brian Patton was unopposed. My fellow Legal Aid board member Herb Clay came in third in his run for Town Council, Rob Hines got in for School Board in Lee County.