Changes coming to Virginia Law July 1, 2020.

Beginning July 1, 2020, many new Virginia laws will go into effect.  Whether you love the changes or hate them, they will apply to you. So, take some time to educate yourself.

Below is a list of just a handful of changes in our Commonwealth’s laws.  Should you have any questions, feel free to reach out. 

Also, note, at the time of this blog post, the Virginia General Assembly has indicated it will hold a Special Session in August.  This is in light of the tragic killing of George Floyd, world wide #BlackLivesMatters protests, and is intended to address much needed Police and Criminal Justice Reform measures. 

Marijuana Decriminalization.

On July 1, 2020, the penalties for simple possession of marijuana (up to one ounce) will be reduced from a Class I Misdemeanor (with up to 30 days in jail, a criminal record, and license suspension) to a civil penalty, punishable by a maximum $25 fine

The new law also seals the criminal records of past marijuana convictions from employers and school administrators.

However, the suspicion of the presence of marijuana may still be used by law enforcement to conduct criminal investigations that may lead to other charges.  A marijuana conviction may also still have serious immigration consequences for non-US citizens. 

So, if you’re charged, you need to talk to an attorney to best understand your options. 

Suspended Licenses for Unpaid Court Fees.

Beginning July 1, Virginia drivers will no longer receive driver’s license suspensions for unpaid court fines and costs.  The law is also retroactive and will reinstate licenses for over 600,000 Virginias who currently have license suspensions due to court fees and costs.

Of course, this change doesn’t prohibit the court from imposing fees and costs for traffic and criminal offenses.  And if your license is suspended for other reasons, in addition to fees and costs, this does nothing to change other valid reasons for license suspensions.

“Move Over” Reckless Driving Law.

Beginning July 1, Virginia drivers must move to a nonadjacent lane on a highway with at least four lanes when approaching a stationary vehicle displaying flashing, blinking, or alternating blue, red or amber lights (for example, a police car that pulled someone over or an ambulance on the scene of an accident). If, however, changing lanes would be unreasonable or unsafe, drivers must proceed with due caution and maintain a safe speed.

Before, violating this law was a traffic infraction for a first offense, but became a Class I Misdemeanor for a second offense.  The new law makes a single offense a Reckless Driving, Class I Misdemeanor.

“Tommie’s Law” (Virginia Animal Abuse Law).

Under Tommie’s Law, animal abuse will now be charged as a Class 6 Felony with a punishment of one to five years in prison.  Such an offense was previously charged as a misdemeanor if the animal survived the abuse.

Child Car Seats.

A new law requires that you must place any child riding in your car in a rear-facing car seat until they reach the age of two, or until they meet the minimum weight standards for a forward-facing car seat.  Under the current law, children under seven must be in a child seat, but it doesn’t specify how old the child should be or their weight to switch to a front-facing car seat.

Tobacco Purchasing Age.

On July 1, the age to buy tobacco products will be raised from 18 to 21 years old.  However, active military personnel may purchase such products at the age of 18 with valid military ID.

Handheld Cell Phone in Work Zone.

On July 1, you will be prohibited from holding a handheld cellphone in a work zone with a few exceptions.  If caught, you will receive a mandatory fine of $250.     

The exceptions include emergency vehicles, parked or stopped vehicles, using factory installed GPS, or if the driver is reporting an emergency.

Gun Control Laws.

The General Assembly passed various gun control measures that will go into effect July 1, 2020.  They include:

  • Senate Bill 70 and House Bill 2, which establish universal background checks in Virginia
  • Senate Bill 240 and House Bill 674, which establish an Extreme Risk Protective Order, allowing authorities to temporarily take guns away from people deemed to be dangerous to themselves or others
  • Senate Bill 69 and House Bill 812, which reinstate Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law
  • House Bill 9, which requires gun owners to report their lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement within 48 hours or face a civil penalty.
  • House Bill 1083, which toughens the penalty for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a reckless manner that endangers a child
  • Senate Bill 35, which gives local governments more authority to ban guns in public spaces, like public buildings, parks, recreation centers, and during permitted events
  • Senate Bill 479, which bars people with protective orders against them from possessing firearms and require them to turn over their guns within 24 hours

Lee-Jackson Day No Longer a State Holiday.

Meant to honor Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, this day was established over 100 years ago. It was also the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Now, Virginia will no longer recognized this date. Instead, Election Day will be a state holiday.

Other Changes to Virginia Law.

Of course, this list doesn’t include every change in Virginia law coming on July 1. And as mentioned at the beginning of this blog post, many changes may be coming soon.

Reach out to Abrenio Law if you have questions. To be clear, this post is not intended to be legal advice, and you need to speak directly with an attorney to be advise of your options for your ow case.