You may not have noticed it yet, dear reader, but on July 1 of this year your life probably changed, at least a little, as new laws went into effect across Virginia. Not all of us may notice the change right away, but for others, the changes are more impactful. This is particularly true if you are nursing mother, a frequent cyclist, the parent of a child with autism or other disabilities, or an employee concerned about maintaining your privacy online.
Most laws that passed the General Assembly during the 2015 session and were signed by the Governor actually took effect last week. That means it is now legal to breastfeed in public places, it is now illegal to sell powdered alcohol in the Commonwealth, and employers are forbidden from requiring employees to divulge their social media accounts and passwords.
Thanks to the Virginia General Assembly, your employer can’t require you to disclose the username and password to your social media accounts, whether you are a current employee or an applicant. The law also says your boss can’t make you add them as a friend on Facebook, and allows you to block them from your Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts, if you want to.
As Virginians’ expectations regarding the privacy and ownership of their digital content and persona continue to change, so to must Virginia’s laws. The Privacy Expectation Afterlife and Choices Act spells out when and whether social media and digital content providers are required to provide your electronic communications and content to the personal representative of your estate after you die. The act specifically allows the provider to withhold content if disclosure is contrary to the deceased users expressed intent.
Prior to July 1, divorced custodial parents of profoundly disabled children often found themselves out of luck when court ordered child support vanished on their child’s eighteenth birthday. A new law provides that a court may order support for any child over the age of 18 who is severely and permanently mentally or physically disabled when they turn 18 (or 19 if the child was a full-time high school student). To receive support the child cannot be self-supporting, and must live in the home of the parent seeking child support.
In an effort to encourage prompt reporting of overdoses, Virginia law now establishes an affirmative defense to prosecution for drug possession, public intoxication or unlawful purchase and possession of alcohol for anyone seeking emergency medical attention for himself or another because of a drug-related or alcohol-related overdose.
The Commonwealth may not use evidence obtained as a result of your seeking or obtaining emergency medical attention, as long as you remain at the scene until a law-enforcement officer responds to the report of an overdose or, if no law-enforcement officer is present at the scene, as long as you cooperate with law enforcement, identify yourself to the responding law-enforcement officer, and cooperates with any resulting criminal investigation.
Virginia’s roads just became a little safer for cyclists, and a little more forgiving for drivers who share the road with them.
Virginia’s law now includes bicycles, electric assistive mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, and mopeds among the list of vehicles that drivers of cars shall not follow too closely. While you can now be ticketed for following a bike too closely, you don’t need to feel trapped. The General Assembly also passed a new law that allows drivers to cross double yellow lines or a solid yellow lines in order to pass a pedestrian or a device moved by human power, if such movement can be made safely.