Sunday, January 15, 2017

Virginia Bills SB1072- Creigh Deeds / HB1485-Dickie Bell/Israel O’Quinn Loitering Bans, What Does it Really Mean?

When an expansion of Virginia’s Loitering Law was proposed with a Bill back in 2013-SB1152 (by my Senator) I shared an experience with every Virginia Legislator who was in office back then.

And knowing that 2017’s SB1072 expansion of not just our Loitering Law but also our Residency Law will be heard tomorrow morning in Senate Courts of Justice Committee I’m pulling out my 2013 opposition to expanding Virginia’s Loitering Law.

Here it is:

In 2011 when I visited my local CVS on the corner of Mechanicsville Turnpike and Lee Davis Rd to get a flu shot there was a 45+ minute wait, so instead of waiting inside the store I went outside for some fresh air.

Within the next 5 minutes Lee Davis High School let-out for the afternoon and students were walking across the street, boarding buses and loading into cars. At that moment I realized that I was “loitering” by definition because I was standing less than 100 ft. from the school property line and if I happened to be a Registered Sex Offender I could be charged with a Class 6 Felony for simply waiting for my turn to get a flu shot. It wouldn’t matter if there was any intent in my presence outside the store, all that needed to happen was a parent to recognize my face from the VSP Registry or for someone to complain that I was lurking and looking at the teens “creepily” and once it was confirmed I was a Virginia Registered Sex Offender I would be handcuffed and hauled off.

Past and present Virginia Legislators and Governors have criminalized the simple acts of day-to-day life under the guise of “if it saves one child” and under the falsehood of “a high recidivism rate for those listed on the VSP Registry”.

Restricting the movement, the residence and the employment locations of people who have past convictions does not reduce new crimes from occurring but in fact hinders their successful re-entry into society, limits their involvement and participation in their family and friends lives creating a high stress and paranoid environment for everyone.

I mapped-out all the businesses around my local high school within the “100ft loitering restriction” from the property line of the High School in addition to the CVS is a Laundromat, a Hair Salon, a Dry Cleaner, a Pizza shop, a Tanning Salon, a Veterinary Office, a Dentist and a Hearing Aid store so to list a few. An additional 30ft. away is a McDonalds, a Burger King and a convenience store.

Simply patronizing these local stores or waiting in their parking lot for an acquaintance or family member who is inside could become a Class 6 Felony simply based on the distance in the VA statute

What if a citizen is forced to change a flat tire on the side of the road or they’ve broken down and are waiting for AAA to arrive for a tow? Should they abandon their vehicle in the middle of the street? Based on the penalty in the VA statute, my advice would be yes, run!!!

For a crime to occur there is supposed to be intent, but Virginia’s loitering and residency statutes ignore Mens rea and instead the burden falls upon the citizen.

I believe there was an easy fix. Currently in section C of § 18.2-370.2 it says, for the purpose of having any contact whatsoever with children that who are not in his custody. If similar wording was added to both sections A and B the current problem of citizens who are not committing a crime being wrongly charged would be solved and the true intent of the statute would be met. I asked all 140 Virginia Legislators to amend this portion of the statute back in 2013.

Guess what, not one Virginia Legislator did not in 2013, not in 2014, or 2015 or 2016.

But here we are in 2017 and there are 2 separate proposals SB1072-Deeds / HB1485-D.Bell/O’Quinn to expand even further upon the existing Loitering law and our Residency law. Nice!

SB1072-Deeds is on Monday January 16ths Virginia Senate Courts of Justice docket.

Will VA Legislators listen to reason? To facts? Or will hate and fear take the lead?

We’ll have to wait and see.

Mary Devoy