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Robbery Definition Changing in Virginia

Robbery will have a more nuanced definition after a bill reforming the state’s definition becomes law on July 1st.

Delegate Vivian Watts (D-Fairfax) sponsored the bill.

“Robbery has just one description and it's punishable by five years to life with no distinctions between whether or not somebody was hurt, whether a gun was used, whether any weapon was used, [or] whether it was just a threat,” she said.

The new law splits up robbery into categories, based on what kind of threat was used and how victims are harmed. There are four categories. The most grave offense is robberies with serious bodily injury to the victim. The lowest category is using a threat or intimidation without a deadly weapon, and can carry a shorter prison sentence than the previous law.

“You change [the sentence of] five to life into gradients of what the circumstances were of the degree of threat to the victim in commission of the crime,” said Watts

The bill also removes the requirement for juveniles to be tried as adults. Prosecutors can still ask for the juveniles to be tried as adults but its no longer mandatory.

Watts says this is unrelated to efforts to repeal mandatory minimums. Efforts to reform those failed in this year's session.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Jahd Khalil is a reporter and producer in Richmond.
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