Efforts To Repeal New Virginia Law On Organized Retail Theft Blocked For This Year

Aiexpress – A proposal to overturn a recent Virginia law that classifies organized retail theft as a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years was rejected for this year. On Monday, a House subcommittee voted to refer the bill to the Virginia State Crime Commission for additional examination.

The state legislature passed the new law last year with bipartisan support, including Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and state Attorney General Jason Miyares. Effective since July, the law now classifies conspiring or acting in concert with others to steal retail merchandise valued over $5,000 within a 90-day period with the intent to sell the stolen goods for profit as a Class 3 felony.

At the time the Virginia law was enacted, there was a surge in viral videos on social media depicting groups of thieves boldly pilfering bags of merchandise from stores across the nation. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that numerous states had already implemented legislation to combat organized retail theft.

Some Democrats and criminal justice advocates opposed the bill, expressing concerns that it could potentially entangle individuals who turn to theft as a means of survival. This includes individuals from low-income backgrounds, the homeless, and those grappling with addiction.

Brad Haywood, the founder of Justice Forward Virginia, a criminal justice reform advocacy group, disputed the notion that retail theft has reached crisis levels in recent years, calling it an exaggeration. The nation’s largest retail trade group recently retracted its claim that organized retail crime accounted for almost half of the $94.51 billion in industry shrinkage, which includes overall inventory loss due to theft. The extent of financial losses faced by retailers as a result of organized retail crime is uncertain, and it remains unclear whether the problem has escalated in recent times.

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Haywood, a supporter of the repeal effort, expressed his disappointment that the bill did not receive a comprehensive hearing. However, he remains determined and intends to continue his push for repeal next year.

“I believe we missed a chance to hold those who exploit the fear in criminal justice accountable,” he expressed.

Del. Fernando “Marty” Martinez, the main proponent of the bill, has requested that the repeal bill be referred to the crime commission. He believes that since the new law has only been in effect for six months, it is still too early to determine its effectiveness.

Martinez expressed a desire for more data regarding the effectiveness of the bill and the reasons behind its classification as a class (3) felony.

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