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Virginia bill prohibiting misdemeanor arrest warrants for law-enforcement vetoed

Governor Ralph Northam vetoed a bill that would prohibit magistrates from issuing misdemeanor arrest warrants against law enforcement officers.
Credit: aijohn784
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RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam vetoed Senate Bill 1150 on Tuesday.

The bill would make sure a magistrate does not issue an arrest warrant for a law-enforcement officer for a misdemeanor offense without prior consent from the attorney for the Commonwealth or the local law enforcement agency if the alleged offense is related to the officer’s official duties.

Northam said the bill would unnecessarily limit the authority of our magistrates and reduce citizens’ ability to hold law enforcement officers accountable. 

The bill passed the Virginia Senate in a 23 to 7 vote, and it passed the House in a 91 to 8 vote.

Here is Northam's full veto statement:

Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 1150. This bill prohibits magistrates from issuing misdemeanor arrest warrants against law enforcement officers without prior consent from the attorney for the Commonwealth or the local law enforcement agency if the alleged offense is related to the officer’s official duties.

Virginia holds its law enforcement officers to high standards through mandated training and a rigorous certification process, and as a result, our Commonwealth enjoys professional law enforcement agencies and officers. Police divisions across the Commonwealth strive to build and maintain public trust by protecting and engaging with their communities. Building and maintaining public trust also requires that citizens feel they are able to hold police officers accountable if the law has been violated.

Senate Bill 1150 prohibits Virginia’s magistrates from issuing misdemeanor arrest warrants against law enforcement officers unless the complainant is a law enforcement or animal control officer, or the attorney for the Commonwealth has given prior approval. We rely on our magistrates to use their judgment in issuing other warrants—there is no reason to treat cases involving law enforcement officers differently. 

This bill would prevent citizens from holding law enforcement officers accountable and unnecessarily limits the authority of our magistrates.

Accordingly, I veto this bill.

Sincerely,

Ralph S. Northam