Marie Danti was arrested in 2013 when she went to a church in the middle of the night to try to see a priest.

To consider reducing penalty for beating a police officer

Virginia lawmakers plan to take up dozens of criminal justice reforms during a special legislative session this week,

But one proposal in particular is expected to spark an intense battle:

A push to change a law that allows police to charge people with felony assault even if the arresting officers are not seriously hurt.


A bill by Senate Democrats would downgrade the charge of assault and battery on a law enforcement officer from a felony to a misdemeanor.

The proposal is one of an array of reforms drafted in Virginia since the May 25 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis.

This prompted a nationwide protest movement.

Lawmakers will also consider bills to ban the use of police chokeholds and no-knock warrants,

Enhance the ability of courts to expunge criminal records, and eliminate jury sentencing except when requested by defendants.

Sen. Scott Surovell, the chief sponsor of the assault and battery bill,

Said it would eliminate the current mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail and change the law,

So the charge can only be brought as a felony if an officer has a visible physical injury.

Surovell said he is also considering adding provisions requiring that another officer,

Not the arresting officer,

Investigate the circumstances and that a prosecutor approve the charge.

Critics of the current law say police overuse the charge, particularly in cases where they fear the person they arrested will claim police brutality.