With my leadership, we launched Arlington's first Drug Court. Now entering its 6th year, this sentencing alternative program empowers those addicted to these powerful drugs to get back on track and avoid incarceration while giving them the needed tools to stay clean and sober and become law-abiding citizens. Participants appear weekly in court, undergo regular drug screening, and participate in a program of rigorous community supervision. Our graduates leave the program much better equipped to avoid substance abuse and go on to lead productive lives free from dependence and criminal behavior.
I am a founding supporter of Second Chance -- a drug and alcohol intervention and prevention initiative aimed at keeping our middle school and high school students in school and not under supervision. Second Chance is a diversion program designed to help youth who are in the early stages of drug or alcohol use who are referred to the program by parents or guardians, or by law enforcement. The classes teach students to deal with peer pressure, how to make better, more healthy choices, and the harmful effects of alcohol and drugs. Successful completion results in no public record of the offense.
The Code of Virginia establishes the process for determining the pre-trial release and/or detention of a defendant. The law balances a defendant's legitimate liberty interest against the equally compelling community interest in public safety and interest in ensuring a defendant appears for court. My office no longer requests cash bonds in cases involving non-violent misdemeanors unrelated to drug dealing or drunk driving. An individual who is not a danger to the community or a risk of flight should never be held without bond while pending trial. Justice is not served when defendants on bond commit new crimes in the community while their cases are pending or fail to appear for mandated court appearances. I am committed to working with our local delegation and others in Richmond to expand the use of pre-trial services that help ensure individuals released with a cash bond remain law abiding and show up for their court date.
My policy is never to initiate a civil asset forfeiture proceeding without a concomitant and underlying criminal charge. I believe this is an appropriate safeguard against some of the abuses identified at the federal level and elsewhere. Additionally, my office threshold for seizing assets is $500. The Virginia statutory scheme lays out a fair and balanced process that rightfully places the burden on the Commonwealth to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the seized property is subject to forfeiture. When used judiciously as we do in my office, civil asset forfeiture is a useful tool that prevents criminals from profiting from their illicit and illegal conduct.
Sexual Assault Response Team Manual
At my instigation and for the first time in Arlington County, a multi-disciplinary, cooperative effort dedicated to improving services to victims of sexual assault resulted in a state-of-the-art manual -- the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) Protocol. This initiative strengthens our community's ability to investigate and successfully prosecute sexual assault cases and brings offenders to justice. The Arlington SART works across agencies to create a consistent and coordinated response to sexual assault and intimate partner violence. Having a strong SART in a community is associated with greater victim participation in the criminal justice system, as well as fewer reporting delays, better collection of forensic evidence, more arrests and stronger prosecutions.
For the entirety of my service as the elected Commonwealth's Attorney, criminal defendants have benefitted from my office's "open file" discovery policy. Under the current Virginia Supreme Court rules, a criminal defendant is not entitled to review copies of police reports, detective supplements, or witness statements related to their case unless it contains what's known as "exculpatory evidence." I believe this limited form of criminal discovery is unfair to defendants. As a result, I adopted a far broader, "open file" policy. I have continued to advocate for expanded criminal discovery statewide and, along with the Virginia Association of Commonwealth's Attorneys, fully support the rule changes recently adopted by the Virginia Supreme Court that in many ways mirror what my office adopted years ago.