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Virginia Lawmakers Kill Bill To Curb Judges’ Discretion In Deferring Convictions

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A 28-year-old Mount Nebo man and his 21-year-old stepdaughter have been charged with incest despite the fact they are not blood relatives and are both above the legal age of consent. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

A 28-year-old Mount Nebo man and his 21-year-old stepdaughter have been charged with incest despite the fact they are not blood relatives and are both above the legal age of consent. (Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Legislation to restrict judges’ authority to defer convictions has died in the General Assembly.

The Senate Courts of Justice Committee voted 11-3 Friday to reject a bill authored by Del. Ben Cline (R-24th District), which was prompted by a Virginia Supreme Court ruling that judges have broad authority to delay disposition of a case. Judges sometimes use that authority to give first-time offenders a second chance if they stay out of trouble.

Some lawmakers complained that the ruling undermines their authority to write laws that judges are required to apply. The backlash was especially strong in the House of Delegates, where legislators have grilled judges who are up for re-election about whether they have used their authority under the court’s ruling to delay cases.

Opponents of Cline’s bill said legislators should not erode judges’ discretion.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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