RICHMOND (February 22, 2013) – Virginia Magistrates Association (VMA) is praising the Virginia General Assembly for its passage of the Magistrate Assault Bill, SB-853, which amends Virginia Code §18.2-57(C) by adding magistrates to the list of public servants an assault upon whom would constitute a felony.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Chap Petersen (D-VA) of Fairfax, and Senator Adam Ebbin (D-VA) of Alexandria, was approved by the Senate on February 1 and by the House on February 21. The bill now goes to Governor Robert McDonnell for review.
Magistrates are state judicial officers who work in adult jails and detention centers throughout Virginia, determining promptly after arrest whether each charge satisfies the Constitutional standard that requires police officers to base their arrests on probable cause. Magistrates also conduct bail hearings for persons who face misdemeanor and felony charges. For years, assault on a magistrate was charged as a misdemeanor offense because they were not specifically included under the felony provision of Section 18.2-57(C), which has long included judges and police officers and requires a minimum jail sentence of six months.
VMA President Wilson Talavera, a Fairfax County magistrate, said data collected by VMA demonstrates that the number of assaults on Virginia magistrates has increased through the years. “The amendment puts those who might assault a magistrate on notice that they would face a felony charge with a mandatory jail sentence,” he said.
VMA Vice President Rick Nagel, a Fairfax County magistrate, said the amendment would provide added protection for Virginia’s magistrates. “An attack on a magistrate is no less egregious than on a judge or law enforcement officer, he said.
Magistrate Susan Harris, who serves Fredericksburg City and Spotsylvania County, testified before Senate and House committees in support of the amendment. “It was an honor to testify on behalf of all Virginia Magistrates,” Harris said. “Having been assaulted in 2005, I feel strongly that it sends the wrong message that assault and battery on a Magistrate, an officer of the court, is only a misdemeanor offense.”
The Virginia Magistrates Association, Inc. is devoted to enhancement of professionalism, shared knowledge and effective advocacy on behalf of its members who serve the 32
judicial districts throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.