RICHMOND, Va. — Some Virginians convicted of underage possession of alcohol or marijuana could soon have a way to remove the case from their records.
The co-chairman of Virginia’s Senate Republican Caucus, Sen. Ryan McDougle, told reporters Thursday that he plans to introduce a bill in this winter’s General Assembly session that would allow some records to be expunged if the individual was under the age of 21 at the time of the conviction.
“That is something that we’ve not done before. I don’t think that many people on the Republican side in particular have put that out. But we are looking at particularly juveniles or people under 21, based on some of the information that we have — brain development — of trying to make sure that their permanent abilities to work and get jobs and have that impacted on their record, that we are being responsive to that,” McDougle says.
He says that the bill will be “very narrowly tailored.”
The move comes as the state considers reforms to the juvenile justice system, including a proposal to revamp the two remaining juvenile detention facilities in the state.
McDougle, whose district stretches from Hanover County to Spotsylvania County, says there are now fewer than 400 juveniles in the facilities, and he expects that number to fall below 300 by the middle of next year.
Potential changes under consideration include increased services for both the offenders and their families in the areas where underage offenders live.
Democratic Senate Caucus Chair Don McEachin, of Henrico County, wants an emphasis on differentiating the juvenile facilities from the adult correctional facilities.
“We need to house them in a different manner, we need to educate them in a different manner. They are, at the end of the day, children not adults,” he says.
McDougle says there will be a series of reforms introduced this session.
“I think you will see some other criminal justice sort of items that will get a little bit of attention, and maybe from the direction of people you wouldn’t expect them to get attention from,” he says.