Liz McCormick Published

House Bill to Review Criminal Penalties in W.Va.

John Shott

House Bill 2966 would put together an independent panel and create the West Virginia Sentencing Commission.

It was taken up by the House Judiciary Committee Monday afternoon and is sponsored by House Speaker Tim Armstead.

The Sentencing Commission would look at all of the criminal penalties in state code and make recommendations to lawmakers for potential legislative changes.

That’s what House Judiciary Chair John Shott, of Mercer County, says is the commission’s main purpose.

“We’ve had many laws on the books for decades and some new laws, and during our discussions here in the House chamber, there have been concerns expressed about disproportionality between certain crimes and others,” Shott explained, “so this would be an effort to get someone to take a look at that and give us some suggestions on how to rewrite some of those.”

Shott says the commission would help create fair and uniform sentencing guidelines for West Virginia.

It would be made up of 14 members appointed by the House Speaker, Senate President, and the Governor. Commissioners would serve for two years and wouldn’t be paid for doing so.

The House Judiciary Committee also adopted amendments to the bill Monday. One would require the commission to place a special emphasis on the state’s drug laws, and appoint additional members – two attorneys appointed by the President of the state’s bar exam, and two counselors from the West Virginia Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

The bill was approved by the committee and now moves to the full House for its consideration.