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Nancy  Madsen
By Nancy Madsen November 10, 2012

New mandatory prison law approved

Bob McDonnell promised to crack down on repeat drug dealers when he ran for governor in 2009.

"McDonnell will propose legislation establishing tough new mandatory minimum sentences for second-time offenders, and increasing mandatory minimum sentences for third time offenders.” the Republican said in his public safety plan. Second-time offenders will face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Third-time offenders will face a more significant mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison.”

Del. Robert Bell, R-Albemarle, and Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, introduced identical bills at the start of this year to fulfill McDonnell's pledge. The minimum sentences would apply to drug traffickers, except in marijuana, who had been convicted of a felony. Before, second-time offenders had no mandatory minimum penalty, while third-time offenders faced a minimum of five years in prison.

The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission estimated the annual cost of the legislation at $11.7 million. The General Assembly cut the cost to $5.5 million by reducing the minimum sentence for second-time offenders from five years to three. The minimum sentence for third-time dealers remained at 10 years  -- the level the governor sought.

McDonnell signed the amended bill. The law, which became effective on July 1, wasn't quite as strong as the governor wanted. But the original bill met McDonnell's pledge to propose legislation requiring mandatory sentences of five years for second-time offenders and 10 years for third-time drug dealers.

So we rate this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Bob McDonnell, "McDonnell Unveils Public Safety Plan,” August 2009.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Governor seeks harsher penalties for repeat drug offenders,” Jan. 20, 2012.

Email from McDonnell"s spokesman Jeff Caldwell, Nov. 6, 2012.

Legislative Information System, Summary of SB 159, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

Legislative Information System, Summary of HB 968, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Capitol Briefs: Bill increase penalties for dealers, predators,” Feb. 15, 2012.

Senate Finance Committee, Fiscal Years 2013-14 proposed budget summary for Public Safety, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

Subcommittee on Public Safety, Recommendations on proposed 2013-14 budget, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

Senate Finance Committee, Overview of committee budget amendments on proposed 2013-14 budget, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

Senate Finance Committee, Conference Report to House Bill 1301, April 17, 2012.

Legislative Information System, Public Safety portion of the approved budget, HB 1301, June 11, 2012.

Legislative Information System, Fiscal impact statements for SB 159, accessed Nov. 7, 2012.

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