Public safety refers to the protection of the general welfare of members of the public. In the context of the law so-called "public-safety" laws regulate activities that fall outside of the normal understanding of crime or civil liability. Instead, these laws step in for the protection of the general public where an activity is not necessarily forbidden itself but creates unsafe conditions for the public.
Many jurisdictions have passed legislation that is intended to protect the public safety, or to put measures in place to protect the public's most vulnerable members. Public safety legislation in Virginia is directed at a wide range of issues including the protection of minors, victims of sexual crimes, the regulation of issues associated with substance abuse, and traffic issues. The following is an array of public safety laws regulating Virginia residents and visitors.
Megan's Law (Community Notification). Adds to the offenses for which registration of sex offenders is required: marital sexual assault; aggravated sexual battery where the victim is 13 or 14 years old, serious bodily or mental injury results or a dangerous weapon is used or threatened to be used; and breaking and entering of a dwelling if done with intent to commit rape. The law also requires the State Police to develop and maintain by January 1, 1999 a system for making registry information available by means of the Internet. The information is to be updated each business day with newly received registrations. (HB 570; SB 369)
Newborn Infant Neglect. Expands the definition of "abused or neglected child" to include newborn infants testing positive for a controlled substance not prescribed for the mother by a physician, born dependent on such drugs, or diagnosed by a physician with:
- a condition attributable to in utero exposure to illegal drugs or
- fetal alcohol syndrome. (HB 803; SB 557)
Substance Abuse Screening and Assessment of Certain Offenders. Requires all felons and those persons convicted of Class 1 or 2 misdemeanor drug and alcohol offenses to undergo substance abuse screening and assessment. (HB 664; SB 317)
Involuntary Temporary Detention (Jef's Law). Clarifies that any responsible person may seek an involuntary temporary detention order of a person believed to be mentally ill and in need of hospitalization and that the recommendation of the treating physician must be considered in making the decision on the temporary detention order. (HB 539 and 681; SB 608; SJR 251)
Restricted Driver's Licenses. Places special restrictions on the driver's licenses of persons less than 18 years old if those persons have been convicted of certain traffic offenses. The restrictions include a prohibition on the driver transporting more than three passengers who are less than 18 years old, except in certain circumstances. (HB 1014)
Photo-Enforcement of Tolls. Allows the use of photo-monitoring equipment for enforcement of toll payments at toll facilities. (SB 588)
In addition to the foregoing, public safety laws in Virginia and elsewhere also deal with issues relating to recidivism, emergency response procedures and regulations, laws relating to the regulation of firearms intended to reduce gun violence, so-called "smart policing" which refers to the efficient use of police resources, and other programs.
*article courtesy of Matthew P. Pritts of Woods Rogers, [email protected].