Governor McAuliffe proposes criminal justice reforms

FILE - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gestures during a news conference at the Capitol, Monday, July 13, 2015, in Richmond, Va. (AP File Photo/Steve Helber)

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Terry McAuliffe is proposing several legislative reforms to Virginia’s criminal justice system for the 2017 General Assembly session.

McAuliffe wants the Commonwealth to be more forgiving when it comes to lower-level crimes, while making it easier for new DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted.

The proposed reforms include raising the threshold for felony theft from $200 to $500. The governor’s office says Virginia’s felony larceny threshold is currently the lowest in the country.

McAuliffe is also looking to restricting the Commonwealth’s ability to suspend driver’s licenses for certain crimes or unpaid court debts. According to his office, nearly 650,000 Virginians currently have a suspended license because they cannot afford to pay their legal fees and court costs. Another 200,000 have lost their licenses for offenses that have nothing to do with driving.

“Throughout my administration, I have worked with Virginia’s public safety officials, the legislature, and the courts to assure that we have a criminal justice system that is fair and seeks true justice,”  McAuliffe said Tuesday. “The changes we are proposing today seek to hold offenders responsible for their crimes in a way that maintains opportunities for rehabilitation and future productivity.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.