After working several weeks on HB 542, which included several re-writes and a marathon Courts of Justice Criminal Sub-Committee meeting which did not end until close to 11:00 last night, the bill came out of the Sub-Committee on an 11-0 vote. HB 542, introduced by Delegate Deloris McQuinn, amends 18.2-422 of the Code of Virginia, which makes it a felony to wear a mask in public with certain exceptions. We have had instances around the state where motorcyclists who were wearing a face covering in cold weather, or were wearing a bandana to prevent dirt or sand from hitting their face, were pulled over and forced to remove the protective covering. The officers have cited the statute against wearing a mask in public. The bill inserts the phrase, “with the intent to conceal their identity” to make clear that the mere act of wearing a face covering is not illegal unless you are doing so to specifically conceal your identity. The Court of Appeals of Virginia has previously ruled that intent is already an element of the offense. However, since the words do not appear in the code, many law enforcement officers are under the mistaken belief that the mere act of covering one’s face in public is a felony. HB 542 clarifies that a person covering their face for comfort or protection is not breaking the law.
The final version of HB 542 is not yet available online. However, you can follow the progress of the bill at http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?ses=141&typ=bil&val=hb542&submit=GO
If you feel inclined to thank Delegate McQuinn for introducing this bill you can email her at DelDMcQuinn@house.virginia.gov
We expect both HB 542 and HB 1215, the bill which makes it reckless driving when a person kills or seriously injures another person during the commission of most right of way violations, to be heard in the full House Courts of Justice Committee tomorrow afternoon.
You can continue to voice your support for both bills by emailing members of the Courts of Justice Committee. When doing so, there are several important aspects of each bill that should be shared:
- Motorcyclists, as well as non-motorcyclists, are often approached by a police officer who orders them to remove face coverings such as ski masks which are being worn to protect the person from the cold weather. The person is informed that wearing a mask in public is a felony.
- The current statute prohibiting wearing a mask in public does not contain language specifically stating that the offender must have an intent to conceal their identity, even though the Virginia Court of Appeals has ruled that intent is required to prove the offense.
- HB 542 inserts the phrase, “with the intent to conceal their identity” into the statute to put law enforcement on notice that the statute carries a requirement that the offender intended to conceal their identity, and that covering one’s face for comfort or protection is not a crime.
1. The bill does not carry a mandatory punishment but instead gives the court additional tools to fashion an appropriate punishment for someone who kills or seriously injures another on the highways.
2. The bill forces someone who kills or seriously injures another on the highway to appear in court and face a judge to answer charges rather than simply pre-pay a fine.
3. The bill still allows the court to convict for the lesser included offense of improper driving when the court feels that the facts justify such a finding.
Email addresses for members of the House Courts of Justice Committee are listed below. You can also link directly to the committee members at the following link:
Delegate Bell – DelRBell@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Albo (chairman of the full committee) – DelDAlbo@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Cline – DelBCline@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Gilbert – DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Miller – DelJMiller@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Villanueva – DelRVillanueva@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Morris – DelRMorris@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Adams – DelLAdams@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Watts – DelVWatts@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Herring – DelCHerring@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Mason – DelMMason@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Kilgore – DelTKilgore@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Loupassi – DelMLoupassi@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Habeeb – DelGHabeeb@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Minchew – DelRMinchew@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Leftwich – DelJLeftwich@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Chafin – DelBChafin@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Campbell – DelJCampbell@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Toscano – DelDToscano@house.virginia.gov
Delegate McClellan – DelJMcClellan@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Hope – DelPHope@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Keam – DelMKeam@house.virginia.gov
If you email Delegate Bell, please do not request that he support HB 1215l as he is carrying the bill. Simply thank him for carrying this bill for motorcyclists. Thank you in advance for all of your help in passing these bills of importance to Virginia motorcyclists.
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group