Every July, the Virginia General Assembly enacts new rules that impact daily living within the Commonwealth of Virginia. The General Assembly rolled out new laws on July 1, 2017. Here’s a good summary by a local news outlet that provides access to the General Assembly’s link to the original statutes.

As new laws are enacted, how they are interpreted by the courts is not always so clear, as language drafted doesn’t always produce intended results. (And, frankly, that's often because the intention of the new laws isn’t so clear, to begin with!)

However, as of now, below are a few notes on important laws of which you should be aware. (Of course, this is my quick study of the new rules, which have yet to be reviewed by the courts. So this list is meant for educational purposes and only as a “starting off point” in your own review).New Virginia laws in 2017

1. Possession of Marijuana & License Suspensions. Previously, adults entering into a deferred finding for possession of marijuana had a mandatory license suspension. Under the newly revised Virginia Code Section 18.2-251, the Court now has the discretion to require 50 hours of community service rather than suspend the defendant’s license to drive.

2. Domestic Assault. Before July 1, defendants charged with domestic assault were eligible for a deferred finding as long as they had not previously received a deferred finding or conviction for domestic assault. Now, any “felony defined as an act of violence” will preclude that individual from a deferred finding on the first charge of domestic assault.

3. DUI Consent Law. After a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, the General Assembly has tweaked its “Implied Consent” laws which require people to take breath/blood tests at the police station (or hospital) after being arrested for DUI. Having read the statutes a couple of times, it appears that regarding being charged with “unreasonable refusal,” the only substantive change is that the second offense within ten years is now elevated to a Class I Misdemeanor. The law also prioritizes requests for search warrants to draw blood over other matters. This one will need to be evaluated further.

4. Punitive Damages for Drunk Drivers who Cause Car Accidents. In addition to making it logistically easier to get DUI blood levels into evidence (when relevant) at trial, the newly created statute presumes that a defendant who has “consumed alcohol knew or should have known that his ability to operate a motor vehicle… would be impaired by such consumption of alcohol,” thereby attempting to eliminating a quirk in the law to an injured party’s favor.

5. Unpaid Court Fines. The new laws create a greater grace period for unpaid court costs and fines.

6. Education Law and Bullying. School Boards now must require principles to notify parents of bullying allegations within five school days of the alleged bullying.

7. Traffic Stops. Drivers’ Ed programs will now educate student drivers on stop procedures.

8. Traffic Law. Drivers will now be fined $100 for driving too slowly when not in the right lane. (It should be noted that this also expands law enforcement’s ability to stop vehicles).

Of course, there are many other laws that were changed. So, take a look yourself. Remember, ignorance of the law is no defense!

James S. Abrenio
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Focusing on criminal, traffic defense and personal injury cases
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