Every July, new Criminal and Traffic laws go into effect in Virginia and impact both persons residing in Virginia as well as those just passing through Virginia. A few of the more noteworthy changes for 2013 are discussed below.
Texting While Driving
This one generated, and still generates, tremendous buzz. Virginia beefed up the law prohibiting texting while driving - but left it as a traffic infraction. It has been illegal to text while driving in Virginia since 2009, but it was a secondary offense, meaning an officer could not pull you over for violating this law - there needed to be some other reason to pull you over. The 2013 change made texting while driving in Virginia a primary offense so, at least in theory, officers can now pull over motorists for texting while driving. I say in theory because Virginia's texting while driving law only prohibits 2 things: "(1) manually entering letters or text as a means of communicating with another person and (2) reading email or text messages, provided this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification number." See section 46.2-1078.1 of the Code of Virginia. Since only 2 things, out of the approximately 375649 things one can do on a smart phone are illegal, it seems it could be incredibly difficult for an officer to claim to reasonably suspect a motorist is violating the law by doing one of the 2 prohibited things, as opposed to doing any of the countless other things one can do on a smart phone which are not against the law. It is punishable by a fine: $125 the first time, $250 thereafter.
Lewd and Lascivious Cohabitation & Behavior
Prior to this 2013 change in the law, Virginia had a law making it illegal for persons not married to each other to lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or, whether married or not, engage in open and gross lewdness. This law essentially made it a crime to live together as a couple without being married, and to engage in open and gross lewdness, whatever that means. Many of you probably had no idea you were breaking Virginia law, as it was not being enforced. However, you need not worry as it was repealed in 2013.
Expanded Provisional Driver's License Permissions
Virginia law restricts driving between midnight and 4:00 a.m.. for those holding a provisional driver's license (those under 18 yoa). Provisional driver's license holders can drive to / from employment; when with a parent, another supervising adult or an adult spouse provided the spouse is in the front seat and allowed to drive; in cases of emergency; and to / from school sponsored activities which have adult supervision. The 2013 amendment added permission to drive to / from activities sponsored by a civic, religious or public organizations as well.