2019 Virginia Law Changes

The following laws took effect in Virginia on July 1, 2019:

Deferral of jury service for persons who have legal custody of and are responsible for the care of a child

Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-341.2 (2019): A court may defer or limit jury service of persons who have legal custody of and are responsible for a child or children 16 years of age or younger requiring continuous care by such person during normal court hours to the term of court next after such period of responsibility ends. Under current law, persons with such responsibility are exempt upon request, but no provision is given for the court to defer such person's jury service until after such period of responsibility ends.

Prostitution and sex trafficking

Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-347 through 18.2-350 (2019): Any adult who commits an act of aiding prostitution or illicit sexual intercourse or using a vehicle to promote prostitution or unlawful sexual intercourse, when such act involves a minor, is now guilty of a Class 6 felony.

Minimum age for purchase, possession, and sale of tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products

Va. Code Ann. §§ 18.2-246.8, 18.2-246.10, and 18.2-371.2 (2019): Increases the minimum age for persons prohibited from purchasing or possessing tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products, and the minimum age for persons such products can be sold to, from 18 years of age to 21 years of age with an exception for active duty military personnel. Tobacco products, nicotine vapor products, and alternative nicotine products may be sold from a vending machine if there is posted notice of the minimum age requirements and the machine is located in a place that is not open to the general public and not generally accessible to persons under 21 years of age.

Safe reporting of overdoses

Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-251.03 (2019): You are no longer required to substantially cooperate with law enforcement in any investigation of any criminal offense reasonably related to an overdose in order to qualify for an affirmative defense from prosecution for the unlawful purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol, possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana, intoxication in public, or possession of controlled paraphernalia.

Child abuse and neglect; mandatory reporters

Va. Code Ann. § 63.2-1509 (2019): Ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, and duly accredited practitioners of any religious organization or denomination usually referred to as a church are now required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Clergy members are exempted from the mandatory reporting requirement when the information supporting the suspicion of child abuse or neglect (i) is required by the doctrine of the religious organization or denomination to be kept confidential or (ii) would be subject to the exemptions set forth in § 8.01-400 or 19.2-271.3 if offered as evidence in court.

Custody and visitation orders; exchange of child

Va. Code § 20-124.3 (2019): Provides that in custody and visitation cases, at the request of either party, the court may order that the exchange of a child take place at an appropriate meeting place.

Move over law

Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-861.1 (2019): Defines as reckless driving the failure to yield the right-of-way or reduce speed when approaching emergency vehicles or public utility vehicles on a highway with flashing, blinking or alternating blue, red or amber lights reckless driving. This offense is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor or, if the person’s license had been suspended or revoked due to a moving violation and the reckless driving was the sole and proximate cause of death of another, a Class 6 felony. The punishment for anyone convicted of reckless driving who, when he committed the offense, was texting while driving must include a mandatory minimum fine of $250.

2018 Virginia Law Changes

The following laws took effect in Virginia on July 1, 2018:

18.2-95/18.2-96 - Larceny:  the threshold dollar amount used to determine whether a larceny offense like shoplifting is a misdemeanor/petty offense or a serious felony, is now $500 instead of $200. 

8.01-341.2 - Juries:  a full-time student at an accredited public or private institution of higher education may be allowed to defer their jury service to another term, if attending classes at such institution when called for service.  

22.1-277.05 - Long-Term Suspension:  students may not be suspended from school for longer than 45 days unless (i) the offense [involves a weapon, drugs or serious bodily injury] or (ii) the school board or division superintendent or his designee finds that aggravating circumstances exist.  A student's disciplinary history shall be taken into consideration.  If subsections (i) or (ii) apply, a student's suspension may not be extended longer than 364 days.

Fairfax County Public School Board Reforms Disciplinary Procedures

On July 26, 2018, the Fairfax County School Board voted to adopt a new memorandum of understanding, ("MOU"), between Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Brabrand and Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr.   The new MOU requires school resource officers to (1) contact a student’s parents or guardian before questioning about any possible criminal activity and (2) inform both the student and their guardian of their Miranda rights prior to the interview.  In addition, the MOU limits interventions by school resources officers to incidents involving safety concerns that cannot be resolved by school security staff.  Parents and students in the Fairfax County Public Schools system should carefully review the MOU and 2018-2019 Student Rights and Responsibilities guide before the school year begins on August 28, 2018.

Virginia's School to Prison Pipeline

It is critical for students and parents to become informed about the school disciplinary process and the unfortunate nexus between education and the criminal justice system.  For more information on this topic, please review the September 12, 2016 broadcast of "Inside Scoop," moderated by Catherine S. Read.  During her segment, (14:59), Melinda VanLowe discusses how parents and students should respond when school administrators and school resource/police officers request to question/investigate your student. 

How Do I Fight School Suspension or Expulsion?

To maintain safe schools, alleged violations of school rules or state laws are rigorously investigated to find the student or students deemed to be dangerous or sources of bad behavior.

At the beginning of the school year, students receive a rights and responsibilities manual,  and take a test to examine comprehension of the regulations.  Oftentimes, this is the first and only review of the manual until your child is facing disciplinary action.  Recently, the Fairfax County School Board made changes to the disciplinary code.  Despite parent protests in 2012, the Fairfax County School Board voted to reject a request that administrators call students’ parents before questioning students and obtaining a written statement admitting to prohibited behavior. 

How can you protect your child from suspension or expulsion?  Because the disciplinary process can lead to negative consequences for your child, at the beginning of the school year, it is important to read and understand what actions are prohibited by the school and the disciplinary process.  Then, discuss with your child steps to take if a teacher, principal or school resource officer pulls your child out of class to talk about a potential violations of school rules or laws.  Students should: 

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1.      Ask to speak with a parent immediately.

2.      Exercise the right to remain silent.  Do not answer any questions or provide a written or oral summary of what happened until you consult with a parent or attorney.  While your instinct may be to cooperate with the school and provide a statement, this will not help avoid expulsion.  Rather, the statement will be used as an admission if your behavior violates school rules or state laws.

3.      Consult with an attorney.  


Why takes these steps?  A school investigation can expose your student to serious consequences.  Now school resource officers are posted at almost every middle and high school in Fairfax County.  These are county police officers stationed in the school.  When investigating incidents, school administrators work together with school resource officers.  If your student makes statements to an administrator, those statements can, and often are used to file a criminal charge if the behavior violates state law.  For example: if an administrator finds marijuana in your student’s locker.  Not only can your child be suspended or expelled, the police can also charge her with a criminal misdemeanor.

A disciplinary action can also lead to your child’s removal from school and will certainly limit choices when applying to college.   

What can you do if your child is facing suspension or expulsion?  If the school makes a decision to recommend suspension or expulsion, your student has rights.  To protect those rights, immediately contact the office of the superintendent in your county and request the suspension/expulsion disciplinary packet.  This packet contains your student’s disciplinary, academic, and attendance records as well as statements from your student and other witnesses about the incident.   The superintendent’s office will review this packet and use it, in part, to decide whether to suspend or expel your child.

Finally it is important to contact a lawyer to assist with the disciplinary process.   The American Bar Association discussed the need for parents to retain an attorney for their children who are the subject of school discipline. 

Contact Melinda VanLowe and schedule an initial consultation to get quality advice and guidance based upon her years of experience representing students.