Probation reform in Virginia

House Bill 2038(HB 2038) was introduced by Delegate Don Scott of Portsmouth in the 2021 Virginia General Assembly legislative session. HB 2038 limits the amount of active incarceration that a court may impose as a punishment for technical violations of Probation. Additionally, it limits the amount of time a court may mandate supervised probation for felonies and misdemeanors. For the purposes of this bill, “technical violations” of probation include any violation of the terms of an individual’s release. HB 2038 enumerates these changes in three key sections.

The first provision of HB 2038 sets out clear guidelines on how punishments for technical violations of probation should be handled after July 1st, 2021. The permitted punishments are as follows: (i) a court may not impose a sentence of incarceration for the first technical violation; (ii) for the second technical violation, a court may not impose a sentence greater than 14 days; (iii) the court may not impose a sentence greater than 30 days for the third or subsequent violations. In the case of the third or subsequent violations, a court may also impose other sentencing alternatives that were available to them at the initial time of sentencing.

The second provision of this bill sets parameters on the length of supervised probation. In particular, it limits the amount of time that an individual can be under supervised probation to either (a) the length of their sentence of incarceration or (b) 5 years, whichever is shorter.

Finally, HB 2038 mandates that the court measure the period of the suspension of sentence from the date of entry of the original judgement order. This means that in cases in which suspended sentences are handed down by the court, the start date will be the day of final judgement in the sentencing process. Ultimately, this bill attempts to limit the total time spent incarcerated and simplify the probation process, permitting individuals to move on with their lives more swiftly than allowed under previous law.

This bill passed and came into effect on July 1, 2021.