4 Major Updates to Virginia Criminal Law
The most recent legislative session in Virginia was a busy one. Among the many bills eventually signed into law were a number of changes to state criminal law—some of which made headlines across the country. Norton Pelt has outlined four notable changes that recently went into effect (on July 1).
1. As of July 1, marijuana is decriminalized in the commonwealth.It is still not fully legal to possess and use marijuana in Virginia, but those who are caught with up to an ounce are now only subject to a civil offense and $25 fine. Additionally, the law also seals prior misdemeanor possessions from employers. This is a departure from the prior criminal offense of possession, which could land an offender in jail for 30 days.
2. Sports betting and gambling are coming to some cities in the state.The Virginia Lottery has begun overseeing sports wagers for the first time. Betting on in-state schools is still prohibited. Also, five cities, including the state capital of Richmond, will vote in the general election (Nov. 3) on whether to allow casino gambling. If allowed, the state’s share of the revenues will go toward school construction and remodeling.
3. Gun control.The state legislature approved a slew of gun control measures that were ultimately signed into law and went into effect on July 1. Among the most notable laws was the adoption of a “red flag” law that allows law enforcement authorities to temporarily revoke firearm privileges from those who are in a crisis or who have been deemed dangerous. Other new measures include:
Requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours;
An increased penalty for recklessly exposing guns to children;
Restricting the subjects of protective (restraining) orders from possessing guns and giving them 34 hours to surrender their firearms;
Requiring universal background checks;
Giving localities authority to implement gun-related measures;
Limiting handgun purchases to once per month per person.
4. Driver’s offenses and privileges.Drivers will no longer have their licenses suspended for unpaid court costs, fines, and fees. However, drivers will also no longer be permitted to hold their cell phones while driving. The new law goes further than the previous law which outlawed texting and driving. Fines for a first-time offense (not in a construction zone) are set to be $125, while subsequent violations will result in a $250 fine. Additionally, those illegally in the country will have driving privileges (though not an official driver’s license) and be eligible for in-state tuition in Virginia.
ConclusionOn top of the recent changes to state law, our firm also knows that honest, genuine, trustworthy people sometimes make mistakes. Our firm is a judgment-free zone; whatever criminal charges you are facing, we would be honored to represent you and fight tooth-and-nail to beat your charges or reduce any potential penalties. If you or someone close to you has been charged with one or more criminal counts, you have no time to waste: call us immediately at 540-440-7007 so we can begin turning the wheels of justice.