RICHMOND - Today, Virginia's General Assembly passed legislation requested by Senator Ken Cuccinelli to address the problems created by the ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts.
Sen. Cuccinelli remarked, "I would like to thank my colleagues in the General Assembly and Governor Kaine for working together to solve this issue quickly." Sen. Cuccinelli added, "Across the Commonwealth, drunk drivers were getting off scott free - this was a public safety issue, and we were able to address it with today's legislation."
On June 25th, the Supreme Court ruled in Melendez that prosecutors could not require defendants to call lab technicians to testify in drug and DUI prosecutions, as this shifted the burden from the prosecution to the defense to produce witnesses in a criminal case. This decision resulted in an explosion of defense subpoenas for lab technicians - threatening to overwhelm the department of forensic sciences and prosecutors across Virginia, thereby causing the dismissal of drug and DUI cases. This decision forced prosecutors to suspend drug and drunk driver cases and caused a bottleneck in Virginia's criminal justice system.
Commonwealth's Attorneys from all over Virginia were severely concerned over the situation and were scrambling for a fix to the problem.
After consulting with Virginia prosecutors and law enforcement, Sen. Cuccinelli was the first to pose a solution to the Melendez problem, and in a letter to Governor Kaine, called for a Special Session on July 9th, just two weeks after the ruling. On July 22nd, Governor Kaine announced during a press conference that a legislative fix would be needed and called the legislature into session.
On July 10th, Democrat Candidate for Attorney General and House of Delegates Member, Steve Shannon called Sen. Cuccinelli's request for a legislative fix a "political stunt," and said an administrative fix was all that was needed. Shannon was rebuked by Commonwealth's Attorneys and even by the Governor.
Governor Kaine endorsed Cuccinelli's approach, noting that "legislative action" was necessary to solve the problems posed by Melendez.
Shannon voted for Cuccinelli's legislation, despite his early and loud opposition to resolving this issue through legislation.
"I'd like to thank Steve for voting for my 'legislative fix'," said Sen. Cuccinelli. "I'm glad Steve and others changed their mind and recognized that my urgent request over a month ago was indeed not a political stunt." Sen. Cuccinelli added, "I will continue working alongside law enforcement and Commonwealth's Attorneys to make sure that this fix has the intended effect - to stop drunk drivers, and drug offenders, from going free due to Melendez."
Sen. Cuccinelli also noted that he looked forward to addressing other approaches to alleviate the Melendez problem, such as live video transmissions from lab technicians. "I just hoping I'm doing it as Attorney General, not as a State Senator," Sen. Cuccinelli concluded.
Senator Cuccinelli was one of five members on the Courts of Justice Sub-Committee which crafted this legi