RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A Republican is proposing to allow Virginia localities to authorize law enforcement chiefs to set curfews during civil unrest when there is “a clear and present danger,” with violators facing up to a year in jail.
The bill from Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment (R-James City) would make way for a locality’s governing body to hold a special meeting to enact an emergency ordinance or measures that would allow the top law enforcement officer in the area to order a curfew that doesn’t last longer than a full day but can be extended.
Under the proposal, the chief can restrict people from gathering and impose a curfew “if there exists an imminent threat of any civil commotion or disturbance in the nature of a riot which constitutes a clear and present danger.”
Sen. Norment’s legislation requires that the chief specifies the hours of the curfew and the area it applies to and that it be in place for no more than 24 hours unless extended or renewed through a judicial order or another vote from the local governing body.
The measure sets exceptions for medical personnel, the military, the press, workers and employees responding to emergencies, people traveling to work, home, medical care, a place of worship and more.
If passed, any violation would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Sen. Norment’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The proposal from Norment comes after civil unrest and nationwide racial justice protests that broke out in 2020 in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky.
Leaders across the country and in Virginia, including Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, imposed curfews in response to the 2020 protests.