New Virginia Laws Go Into Effect July 1, 2013
In its latest session, the Virginia General Assembly passed many new laws that will affect Virginia residents– most of which go into effect on July 1, 2013. Here are brief summaries of five that might interest or impact you the most:
- Texting While Driving. As of July 1st, Virginia Code Section 46.2-1078.1 will make it a traffic infraction punishable by a $125 fine to “[m]anually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person” or “[r]ead any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.” Exceptions are carved out for texting while lawfully parked or stopped, or using a GPS. Prior to this new law going into effect, texting while driving has been a “secondary” offense, for which you could only be charged if the officer had cause to stop you for some other violation and discovered that you were also texting. One law enforcement officer I spoke to informed me that after July 1st, if he notices your head down or your gaze directed down, he will make a traffic stop on suspicion that you are texting or reading while driving. I will expand on the implications of this new law in a separate blog posting– check back for that on a future date.
- “Lewd and lascivious cohabitation.” Virginia Code Section 18.2-345 makes it a misdemeanor to cohabit and “lewdly and lasciviously” associate (be romantically involved with) a person to whom you are not married. Essentially, this statute made criminals of every unmarried couple who chose to live together in Virginia. Although of course this law was not being enforced, effective July 1, 2013, it will be repealed.
- Enhanced DWI/DUI penalties. The legislature passed an amendment to Virginia Code Section 18.2-270 stating that if a person has been previously convicted of involuntary manslaughter, DWI/DUI leaving victim with permanent injury, or a previous DWI/DUI felony offense, then any subsequent offense for DWI/DUI will be treated as a Class 6 felony, with a one year mandatory minimum incarceration, and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. The length of time from a person’s previous DWI/DUI sentencing is not an issue.
- Expanded use of provisional driver’s licenses. Virginia Code Section 46.2-334.01 has been amended to allow a person holding a provisional driver’s license (a driver’s license issued to anyone under 18) to drive between midnight and 4:00 a.m. from an activity that is supervised by an adult and sponsored by a civic, religious or public organization. Prior to this new law going into effect, those under 18 could only drive during those hours if driving to or from a place of employment, or from a sponsored school activity.
- Mandatory minimum sentences strengthened. In a variety of Virginia Code sections providing a mandatory minimum period of incarceration, the sentencing judge will now be required to run those mandatory sentences consecutively, or one after the other. This includes sections related to some violent sexual offenses like rape, production of child pornography and forcible sodomy, as well as offenses such as the violation of a protective order and unlawful sale of certain weapons. Prior to July 1st, judges have had discretion to impose concurrent sentences with mandatory minimum punishments where there are multiple counts of the same offense.