General Assembly, to ensure the imposition of appropriate and
just criminal penalties, and to make the most efficient use of
correctional resources, especially for the effective incapacitation
of violent criminal offenders, has determined that it is in the
best interest of the Commonwealth to develop, implement, and revise
discretionary sentencing guidelines. The purposes of the Commission
established under this chapter are to assist the judiciary in
the imposition of sentences by establishing a system of discretionary
guidelines and to establish a discretionary sentencing guidelines
system which emphasizes accountability of the offender and of
the criminal justice system to the citizens of the Commonwealth.
Commission shall develop discretionary sentencing guidelines to
achieve the goals of certainty, consistency, and adequacy of punishment
with due regard to the seriousness of the offense, the dangerousness
of the offender, deterrence of individuals from committing criminal
offenses and the use of alternative sanctions, where appropriate.
17.1-802. Membership; compensation.
The Commission shall be composed of seventeen members as follows:
Six judges or justices, who may be judges of a circuit court who
regularly hear criminal cases or judges or justices of the Supreme
Court or the Court of Appeals, to be appointed by the Chief Justice
of the Supreme Court of Virginia;
2. One person who is not an active member of the judiciary, to
be appointed as Chairman by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
of Virginia for a term of four years subject to confirmation by
the General Assembly. The Chairman shall designate a vice-chairman
from among the other members to serve a term commensurate with
that of the Chairman;
3. The Chairman of the House Committee for Courts of Justice or
his designee who shall be a member of the committee and two persons
to be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates;
4. The Chairman of the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice
or his designee who shall be a member of the committee and one
person to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules;
5. Four persons to be appointed by the Governor, at least one
of whom shall be a representative of a crime victims' organization
or a victim of crime as defined in subsection B of § 19.2-11.01;
6. The Attorney General of Virginia or his designee for a term
commensurate with his term of office.
All members shall be citizens of the Commonwealth.
B. Except for legislative members and gubernatorial appointments,
appointments to the Commission made on and after January 1, 2001,
shall be for terms of four years. Legislative members shall serve
terms coincident with their terms of office. Appointments to the
Commission made by the Governor on and after January 1, 2006,
shall be for terms of four years. Members initially appointed
to the Commission prior to January 1, 1998, may serve no more
than three consecutive terms. Members initially appointed on and
after January 1, 1998, shall not be eligible to serve more than
two consecutive terms except for the Attorney General who shall
serve by virtue of his office. Vacancies occurring other than
by expiration of a term shall be filled for the unexpired term.
Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments.
The remainder of any term to which a member is appointed to fill
a vacancy or the service of an initial term of three years or
less shall not constitute a term in determining the member's eligibility
C. Legislative members of the Commission shall receive compensation
as provided in § 30-19.12 and nonlegislative citizen members
of the Commission shall receive compensation as provided in §
2.2-2813 and all members shall be reimbursed for all reasonable
and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their duties
as provided in §§ 2.2-2813 and 2.2-2825. Funding for
the costs of compensation and expenses of the members shall be
provided by the Virginia Sentencing Commission.
17.1-803. Powers and duties.
Develop, maintain and modify as may be deemed necessary, a proposed
system of statewide discretionary sentencing guidelines for use
in all felony cases which will take into account historical data,
when available, concerning time actually served for various felony
offenses committed prior to January 1, 1995, and sentences imposed
for various felony offenses committed on or after January 1, 1995,
and such other factors as may be deemed relevant to sentencing.
Prepare, periodically update, and distribute sentencing worksheets
for the use of sentencing courts which, when used, will produce
a recommended sentencing range for a felony offense in accordance
with the discretionary sentencing guidelines established pursuant
to subdivision 1.
Prepare, periodically update, and distribute a form for the use
of sentencing courts which will assist such courts in recording
the reason or reasons for any sentence imposed in a felony case
which is greater or less than the sentence recommended by the
discretionary sentencing guidelines.
Prepare guidelines for sentencing courts to use in determining
appropriate candidates for alternative sanctions which may include,
but not be limited to (i) fines and day fines, (ii) boot camp
incarceration, (iii) local correctional facility incarceration,
(iv) diversion center incarceration, (v) detention center incarceration,
(vi) home incarceration/electronic monitoring, (vii) day or evening
reporting, (viii) probation supervision, (ix) intensive probation
supervision, and (x) performance of community service.
Develop an offender risk assessment instrument for use in all
felony cases, based on a study of Virginia felons, that will be
predictive of the relative risk that a felon will become a threat
to public safety.
Apply the risk assessment instrument to offenders convicted of
any felony that is not specified in (i) subdivision 1, 2 or 3
of subsection A of § 17.1-805 or (ii) subsection C of §
17.1-805 under the discretionary sentencing guidelines, and shall
determine, on the basis of such assessment and with due regard
for public safety needs, the feasibility of achieving the goal
of placing twenty-five percent of such offenders in one of the
alternative sanctions listed in subdivision 4. If the Commission
so determines that achieving the twenty-five percent or a higher
percentage goal is feasible, it shall incorporate such goal into
the discretionary sentencing guidelines, to become effective on
January 1, 1996. If the Commission so determines that achieving
the goal is not feasible, the Commission shall report that determination
to the General Assembly, the Governor and the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court of Virginia on or before December 1, 1995, and
shall make such recommendations as it deems appropriate.
Monitor sentencing practices in felony cases throughout the Commonwealth,
including the use of the discretionary sentencing guidelines,
and maintain a database containing the information obtained.
Monitor felony sentence lengths, crime trends, correctional facility
population trends and correctional resources and make recommendations
regarding projected correctional facilities capacity requirements
and related correctional resource needs.
Study felony statutes in the context of judge-sentencing and jury-sentencing
patterns as they evolve after January 1, 1995, and make recommendations
for the revision of general criminal offense statutes to provide
more specific offense definitions and more narrowly prescribed
ranges of punishment.
Report upon its work and recommendations annually on or before
December 1 to the General Assembly, the Governor and the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Perform such other functions as may be otherwise required by law
or as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
17.1-804. Meetings; staff support.
Regular meetings of the Commission shall be held on a quarterly
basis and at such other times as the Chairman may determine. Nine
members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum. The Commission
may hold public hearings.
The Commission may appoint a director and fix his duties and compensation.
The Director may with prior approval of the Commission employ
and fix the duties and compensation of such adequate staff as
may be requisite to carry out the duties of the Commission. Other
professional personnel, consultants and secretarial and clerical
employees may be employed or contracted upon such terms and conditions
as set forth by the Commission. The salaries, per diem and other
expenses necessary to the functions of the Commission shall be
payable from funds appropriated to the Commission. Adequate office
space shall be provided by the Executive Secretary of the Supreme
All agencies of the Commonwealth, their staffs and employees shall
provide the Commission with necessary information for the performance
of its duties.