New laws take effect today

Published 9:55 pm Thursday, June 30, 2016

Smoking in a car when a child under the age of 8 is present in the vehicle is now illegal, and it is among many changes to Virginia law taking effect today.

Smokers who violate the new law will be subject to a civil penalty of $100 but will not receive demerit points or court costs. The offense is a secondary one, meaning an officer must have some other cause to stop the driver of a motor vehicle before charging someone in the vehicle with the offense.

The 8-year-old age limit is meant to allow an officer to quickly determine the age of the child, as those under age 8 are supposed to be in booster seats or car seats.

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Other traffic-related laws are among those new to the books. For example, “dooring” is now against the law and results in a $50 fine for someone who does it.

“Dooring” refers to a motorist opening his vehicle’s door into the path of an oncoming bicyclist or another vehicle.

“The impact can seriously injure or kill a bicyclist,” according to a press release from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

A slew of changes to permitted behavior for learner’s permit holders also takes effect today.

The law now clarifies that learner’s permit holders may not use a cellphone or other wireless communications devices while driving, even in hands-free mode, except in the case of a driver emergency or when the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped.

New starting today, learner’s permit holders are limited to just one passenger under 21, with the exception of household or family members. Previously, they were limited to just one passenger under 18.

In addition, provisional driver’s license holders under 18 may no longer have more than one passenger under 21, even if a parent is present. The limitation does not apply to family or household members. The initial license issued to anyone under 18 is a provisional license.

In addition, the minimum learner’s permit holding period for 18-year-olds is now only 60 days, down from nine months.

Final DMV-related law changes include that organ donors registered through DMV will remain on the registry until they ask to be removed.

Also, DMV will issue refunds of fuel taxes for fuel used in vehicles owned by a hunger-relief nonprofit organization when the vehicle is used for this purpose. The charity must apply for the refund.

In the realm of firearms, changes in the law include two that affect Virginia concealed handgun permit owners and those engaging in private firearms transactions at gun shows.

Beginning today, Virginia will recognize all valid concealed handgun or concealed weapon permits and licenses issued by another state, including Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, provided some requirements are met.

Those requirements include that the holder is at least 21 years old and carries a government-issued photo ID, that they display the permit and ID upon demand by a law enforcement officer and they have not previously had a Virginia concealed handgun permit revoked.

Although the new law requires Virginia to grant recognition to permits from other states, other states may not reciprocate for Virginia permit holders.

In addition, a new law allows those engaging in private transactions at gun shows to request a voluntary criminal background check on the buyer. Virginia State Police will conduct the background checks.

Also new starting today, Virginia ABC stores will be allowed to open one hour earlier on Sundays, at noon.

ABC stores in Suffolk have been allowed to open on Sundays only since 2012.

Virginia ABC stores have grossed more than $300 million in Sunday sales since 2004, when legislation first allowed a small number of stores in Northern Virginia, Virginia Beach and Norfolk to open on Sundays.