We got a call this morning that HB 542 will be heard by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. As you know, HB 542 amends 18.2-422 of the Code of Virginia, which makes it a felony to wear a mask in public with certain exceptions. Many motorcyclists have been erroneously stopped by law enforcement for merely trying to stay warm or keep dust off of their face.
The bill inserts the phrase, “with the intent to conceal their identity” into the statute 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.
You can continue to voice your support for this bill by emailing members of the Senate 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.
You can directly link to members of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee at the following link:
I have also listed the individual members below:
Senator Marsh (Co-Chair) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator McEachin (Co-Chair) – email@example.com
Senator Saslaw – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Norment – email@example.com
Senator Howell – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Lucas – email@example.com
Senator Edwards – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Puller – email@example.com
Senator Obenshain – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator McDougele – email@example.com
Senator Petersen – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Stuart – email@example.com
Senator Vogel – firstname.lastname@example.org
Senator Stanley – email@example.com
Senator Wexton – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for all of your help in passing this bill of importance to Virginia motorcyclists.,
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group