New Virginia laws to take effect Tuesday
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Several new laws that take effect Tuesday in Virginia resulted from the criminal dogfighting conviction of NFL quarterback Michael Vick and the mass shootings at Virginia Tech.
Legislators passed bills aimed at repairing gaps in the state's mental health system they say could have prevented a deranged student from killing 32 people and himself on Virginia Tech's campus on April 16, 2007. The new laws reform how the state identifies, monitors and treats the mentally ill and allow for better sharing of mental health records.
Universities also will be required to develop emergency management plans and establish threat-assessment teams to attempt to head off similar attacks.
Vick's 23-month federal prison term for dogfighting conspiracy in Surry County spurred significant changes in Virginia's animal cruelty laws.
Beginning Tuesday, attending an organized animal fight will be a felony. Officers will be allowed to perform searches in animal cruelty cases after sunset without obtaining a new warrant, and it will be a felony to use any substance or equipment to enhance an animal's ability to fight.
Cockfighting also will be outlawed and the crime was upgraded to a felony.
"On June 30, Virginia will have the second-weakest cockfighting law in the nation. On July 1, it will have the fourth strongest in the nation," said John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States. "That's a really significant upgrade."
The most visible changes may be new laws for drivers.
Driver's licenses issued after Tuesday will be valid for eight years instead of five. The $4 per year cost will remain the same. Those who fail a driver's license test three times will have to attend a training school before they can try again.
In an effort to decrease traffic at Department of Motor Vehicles customer services centers, drivers who renew their vehicle registration online will get a $1 discount, while those who visit a center will be charged $5 extra.
Teens who drink and drive will face harsher penalties. Those with a blood-alcohol concentration of .02 -- much less than the .08 at which any driver is considered intoxicated -- face up to a year without a license and either a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service.
Also, any drivers that ignores a police officer's order to pull over and the officer is killed in an ensuing pursuit would face up to 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.
School bus drivers will be prohibited from using cell phones or other wireless communication devices while driving. They still can use two-way radios.
It also could become a little more difficult to spot those who can give you a ticket. Sheriffs got the go-ahead to paint their departments' vehicles colors other than brown or white. They still must have a gold, reflective star on each front door and other insignia.
Legislators also did away with some obscure laws, including one that prohibited restaurants from serving drinks that mix wine or beer with liquor. Beginning Tuesday, restaurants can serve sangria, which usually includes red wine, fruits, brandy and triple sec, without fear of prosecution.
Another law, referred to by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine as "archaic," protected men who sexually attack girls 14 to 16 from criminal charges as long as they offer to marry the victim.
Legislators closed the "marriage offer" loophole, and they also voided laws that required sexual assault victims to take a lie detector test and to agree to prosecute the attacker before the state pays for a forensic medical examination, which can cost up to $800.
Legislators also made it a crime for adults to French kiss a child younger than 13. Adults who tongue-kiss a would face up to one year in jail, a $2,500 fine, and be required to register as a sex offender.
After years of debate, lawmakers passed reforms for the payday lending industry, but the changes don't take effect until January to allow time for the creation of a database to track the short-term loans.
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