Joined by local and state law enforcement officials and Democratic and Republican legislators at the Metro Richmond Police Aviation Hanger, Governor Bob McDonnell today ceremonially signed 22 pieces of legislation passed during the 2013 General Assembly Session to strengthen Virginia's public safety laws. The legislation includes measures that toughen identity theft penalties, make important updates to the sex offender registry, crack down on gang violence, and improve school and campus safety.
Speaking about the legislation signed today, Governor McDonnell commented, "As a former prosecutor and attorney general, I know first-hand how important public safety is to the well being and continued growth and prosperity of our Commonwealth's neighborhoods and communities. Today, I am pleased to sign legislation that will toughen penalties against identity theft by elevating theft over the internet involving five or more people to a class five felony, and 50 or more people to a class 4 felony. We are also continuing to crack down on gang violence by adding 19 felonies to the gang predicate criminal statute, ultimately holding gang members more accountable for their actions. Finally, it is important that we continue to better protect our most vulnerable citizens. I am pleased to sign legislation that makes it a crime to financially exploit those that are mentally incapacitated so that we can prosecute people who go after them for personal gain. We all want Virginia to continue to be a great place to live, work and raise a family. By continuing to reevaluate and strengthen our public safety laws, we are able to better protect our family, friends and neighbors in their homes and communities."
Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) said, "I was pleased to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle this year to put forward and pass legislation that broadens the scope of multijurisdiction grand juries in investigating violent crimes. Multijurisdiction Grand Juries are among the most effective investigative tools available to law enforcement, and Senate Bill 938, which passed with broad bi-partisan support, will ensure that this tool is available for investigations into a broad range of violent crimes in Virginia. This bill will help law enforcement prosecute particularly heinous crimes and keep our communities safe."
Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-Rockingham) added, "As we continue to improve our public safety laws to make our streets safer for our children, it is important that we strengthen the punishment for offenses that are the most violent. Today, Governor McDonnell ceremonially signed legislation that adds 25 felonies to the list of those deemed violent - felonies such as gang recruitment, hate crimes and strangulation. In doing so, we will be better able to keep these dangerous people from harming Virginia's citizens through increased sentences."
Delegate Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) concluded, "Stalking is an extremely serious offense. Through legislation passed during the 2013 Session we have now made stalking a class 6 felony if the person has been previously convicted of assault and battery, domestic assault or violation of a protective order again the same victim. Through this legislation, victims will now effectively be protected from further issues with a past offender, allowing them the right to feel safe in their home and community."