Virginia’s Legal Landscape: What’s Changing in 2023?
Every year, the Virginia General Assembly convenes to introduce and pass new legislation that becomes effective on July 1st. This year, several impactful laws have come into effect, touching on a range of issues that impact Virginians. Here’s a closer look at some of the most noteworthy changes:
- Hemp Product Regulations
A new law has brought stricter regulations to hemp products sold in retail stores. It limits the amount of THC allowed in these products, ensuring they adhere to legal standards. Processors of hemp products are prohibited from selling items containing industrial hemp extract if they suspect it will be used in a manner that violates THC limits.
- False 911 Reports
Knowingly reporting false information to emergency personnel resulting in an emergency response is now a class 1 misdemeanor. If the false report leads to serious injury, it escalates to a class 6 felony. In the most severe cases, where someone is killed, it becomes a class 5 felony. This law aims to address the alarming increase in false threats to schools, with 150 such incidents reported across four Hampton Roads school districts in 2022.
- Age Verification for Online Pornography
Online pornography websites must now verify that their users are at least 18 years old. They are required to use a “commercially available database” to confirm a user’s age and identity. Failure to comply could result in civil liability.
- Expansion of “Move Over” Law
Drivers are now mandated to slow down or change lanes when passing vehicles with activated hazard lights. Previously, this rule applied only to emergency vehicles on the side of the road. This expansion aims to enhance road safety.
- Ban on Blue Headlights
Aftermarket modifications that make headlights appear blue are now prohibited on cars, motorcycles, bicycles, mopeds, and scooters. This measure ensures that vehicle lighting conforms to safety standards.
- Fentanyl Mixtures as “Weapons of Terrorism”
Any mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl is now considered a “weapon of terrorism.” Knowingly manufacturing or distributing such substances is a class 4 felony. This law seeks to combat the fentanyl crisis.
- School Bullying Notification
Public school principals are now required to inform parents within 24 hours if their child is involved in a bullying incident. This reduces the notification period from the original five school days, emphasizing swift communication and intervention in such cases.
- Absentee Ballot Witness Requirement
The witness requirement for absentee ballots has been replaced. Now, voters must provide their last four digits of their social security number and birth year to verify their identity when casting an absentee ballot.
- Switchblades and Stiletto Knives
Switchblades are no longer considered a concealed weapon prohibited in public, but stiletto knives have been added to the list of prohibited weapons, ensuring safety on the streets.
- Firearm Safety Incentives
A new firearm safety device tax credit has been introduced for tax years 2023 through 2027. Anyone who purchases firearm safety devices can claim a nonrefundable tax credit of up to $300, helping to cover the cost of these devices. The state has capped the total annual tax credit at $5 million.
These new laws reflect Virginia’s ongoing commitment to addressing emerging issues and ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of its residents. As they take effect, Virginians can expect positive changes in various aspects of their lives, from legal protections to public safety and beyond.
Emily A. Martin
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
Emily A. Martin is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of elder law, estate and trust administration, estate planning, asset protection planning, litigation and dispute resolution, guardianship and conservatorship, long-term care planning, special needs planning and financial planning. To date, Ms. Martin has overseen over 100 guardianship and conservatorship matters. In addition to being admitted to the Virginia State Bar and North Carolina State Bar, she is licensed to practice before the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Martin is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Virginia Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and Regent University School of Law. Prior to joining the firm in 2018, Emily worked as an estate planning and elder law attorney in Virginia Beach for several years.
- Elder Law
- Estate & Trust Administration
- Estate Planning
- Asset Protection Planning
- Guardianship & Conservatorship
- Long-Term Care Planning
- Special Needs Planning
- Financial Planning