Legal Insider: Outdated Virginia Laws that Need to be Changed

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

While we primarily handle employment, retirement and security clearance cases, we wanted to take this opportunity to point to outdated Virginia laws that need to be changed. This article focuses on both state and local laws in Virginia that don’t make sense or are outdated. While many of these are not enforced, it is time that they are taken off the books for good.

Here are some Virginia state laws that seem to be from a bygone era and should be repealed:

Citizens Must Honk Horns While Passing Other Cars — This law, if citizens followed it, would likely lead to accidents or road rage. I can’t recall anyone honking their horn on a highway in order to indicate they were going to pass someone, especially on the highway.

This is commonly done through the flashing of lights. Honking usually only occurs when somebody is stopped for too long in front of them or when an accident is about to occur.

Regulation of Private Life — Virginia makes it a 4th class misdemeanor to engage in sexual relations with anyone that they are not married to. The law, first enacted  in 1950, remains on the books even though it has been declared unconstitutional.

There is some debate as to whether or not the legislature refuses to act based on concerns they may upset constituents concerned with morality issues. Virginia also makes it a crime for individuals to give advice to others about engaging in inappropriate acts.

Adultery as a Crime — Under the Virginia Code, committing adultery while married is a crime and a class 4 misdemeanor. Frankly, Virginia could repeal this law and focus on realistic issues facing the Commonwealth instead of keeping a law that is unenforceable in their code.

Use of Profanity in Public — Using profanity in public is still against the law in Virginia and a class 4 misdemeanor. Some lawmakers have tried to repeal the profanity portion of this statute, but have not yet been successful. Again, this law has been declared unconstitutional, but remains a statute. I wonder how many people have committed misdemeanors under this statute over the last 10 years.

Marriage Restrictions — While most of the world has rescinded these types of discriminatory laws, Virginia has not yet gotten around to amending their Code to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation even though the U.S. Supreme Court has left standing a ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.

Harassment by Phone or Text Message — Be sure not to text or use your cellphone to use indecent or immoral language in Virginia because it is class 1 misdemeanor. The language is so broad that practically anything you text during an argument could fall under this statute.

Outdated Local Laws

There were a number of local laws in Virginia that were outdated, but many of them have been corrected. Many of them were very interesting before they were recently fixed. This is the last one I found still on the books:

Chesapeake, Virginia — It is a misdemeanor for children over the age of 12 to trick or treat. While this has not led to a rash of arrests, the law should be repealed. There is no need to punish 13-year old teenagers for trick or treating with their younger siblings.


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