If Matthew Nash is convicted of a carjacking in Virginia Beach, Va., he could get additional prison time for the mere fact that a toddler in the back seat became a witness to the event, reports the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. Some judges have begun tacking on additional months or years of prison time when a crime occurs in the presence of a child, even though there’s nothing in sentencing guidelines that requires it. The state is trying to figure out how often crimes occur in front of children in anticipation of possible legislation to require additional incarceration if children witness crimes.
The Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission asked prosecutors to supply data on crimes committed in the presence of children, but it has been slow going. Only 11 jurisdictions reported cases through the first six months of the year, which has skewed the current data. The commission embarked on the study, believed to be one of the first in the country, after getting increased reports of judges imposing greater sentences in crimes that occur in front of children. The commission wants to determine exactly how often it happens.