Child sex-crime cases; admission of prior sexual offenses into evidence. (HB403)

Introduced By

Del. Rob Bell (R-Charlottesville)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Prior sex offenses admissible in evidence; sex crimes against child. Provides that in a criminal case in which the defendant is accused of a felony sexual offense involving a child victim, evidence of the defendant's conviction of another sexual offense or offenses is admissible and may be considered for its bearing on any matter to which it is relevant. The bill includes a second enactment requiring this new rule of evidence to be applied in conjunction with the Virginia Rules of Evidence. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Passed


01/03/2014Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/08/14 14102766D
01/03/2014Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/09/2014Assigned Courts sub: Criminal
02/03/2014Subcommittee recommends reporting with amendment(s) (9-Y 1-N)
02/07/2014Reported from Courts of Justice with amendment (22-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/08/2014Read first time
02/10/2014Read second time
02/10/2014Committee amendment agreed to
02/10/2014Engrossed by House as amended HB403E
02/10/2014Printed as engrossed 14102766D-E
02/11/2014Read third time and passed House (92-Y 6-N)
02/11/2014VOTE: PASSAGE (92-Y 6-N) (see vote tally)
02/12/2014Constitutional reading dispensed
02/12/2014Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
02/24/2014Reported from Courts of Justice with amendment (15-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
02/25/2014Constitutional reading dispensed (40-Y 0-N)
02/26/2014Read third time
02/26/2014Reading of amendment waived
02/26/2014Committee amendment agreed to
02/26/2014Passed by for the day
02/27/2014Read third time
02/27/2014Engrossed by Senate as amended
02/27/2014Passed Senate with amendment (40-Y 0-N)
02/28/2014Placed on Calendar
03/03/2014Senate amendment agreed to by House (91-Y 2-N)
03/03/2014VOTE: ADOPTION (91-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
03/06/2014Bill text as passed House and Senate (HB403ER)
03/06/2014Signed by Speaker
03/09/2014Signed by President
03/10/2014Signed by President
03/27/2014Governor's recommendation received by House
04/22/2014Placed on Calendar
04/23/2014House concurred in Governor's recommendation (96-Y 0-N)
04/23/2014VOTE: ADOPTION (96-Y 0-N)
04/23/2014Senate concurred in Governor's recommendation (39-Y 0-N)
04/23/2014G Governor's recommendation adopted
04/23/2014Reenrolled bill text (HB403ER2)
04/23/2014Signed by Speaker as reenrolled
04/23/2014Signed by President as reenrolled
04/23/2014Enacted, Chapter 782 (effective 7/1/14)
04/23/2014G Acts of Assembly Chapter text (CHAP0782)


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 3 clips in all, totaling 2 minutes.


Mary Devoy writes:

New laws are supposed to strengthen our Democracy, not weaken it. But this proposal does just that.

Our Justice System prohibits a complaining witness’ character or sexual history to be discussed or debated. Even if the plaintiff has previously accused someone of sexual misconduct, we claim it’s irrelevant and prejudicial, but yet here we are trying to flip the coin on the defendant by injecting bias into the courtroom.

For years the Virginia Legislature has been making the standards of guilt easier.

If this proposal becomes law, would the defendant be permitted to testify in opposition to the prior conviction or would this be considered irrelevant by the State? It seems to me that any mitigating circumstance in the prior conviction must be allowed as it’s being held up as evidence in the new case. And if this occurs the Commonwealth must allow the defendant the right to face the original accuser even if they took a plea deal. The Constitutional issues with this proposal are countless.

Why is this change even needed?

It’s NOT because the recidivism rates for Registered Sex Offenders is high.

In fact the re-offense rate for convicted “sex offenders” is the second lowest of ALL crimes (U.S. Department of Justice).

I questioned how many current Virginia sexual statutes ALREADY include a “second or subsequent offense”. I found 16 different acts where the Commonwealth is already charging and sentencing defendants with past convictions much more harshly than a first time offender. So it’s not like the small percentage of recidivist aren’t already being punished more harshly by the State.

Justice is supposed to be blind but when it comes to Sex Crimes it seems we are willing to throw away all checks and balances put in place to prevent assumptions, personal opinions or agendas from contaminating a fair system.

Let me give you all a real-life example of presumed guilt because of a prior conviction in Virginia.

In October 2012 in Bedford County VA a man had been approaching children at a bus stop, attempting to lure them to his home. The Bedford police and the parents concluded that it must be a Registered Sex Offender so they went to the registry and picked a photo that came close. The man they selected had an alibi but he was still held without bond and charged with a felony for trespassing on school property, even though a bus stop is not school property. Days later the real perpetrator re-approached the bus stop and with the Registered Offender sitting in a jail cell, the authorities had NO choice but to conclude they had the wrong man.

This is where faulty rationale about those listed on the Virginia Registry has led us. The State ONLY had a misidentified man with a prior sex offense and THAT was enough to deny him bond, to charge him with a crime that doesn’t apply to other citizens and to presume he was guilty. Imagine if the real perpetrator had gone into hiding, if this proposal was in place a finding of guilt for the wrongly accused man would have been certain.

The job of the Prosecution is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; the burden of proof lies with the one who declares, not who denies. If the state believes this proposal is necessary to get a conviction; then we are pursuing citizens who shouldn’t be prosecuted.

In Virginia we already allow an accusation alone with no corroboration as the only evidence in many cases (Johnathan Montgomery/ Elizabeth Coast) and the fact is an accusation is NOT proof! Why are we considering making this second mistake by adding prior convictions to that list?

This proposal if it becomes law would irreparably damage our system of justice whose very foundation is the presumption of innocence.