Several law enforcement agencies in Central Virginia as well as the Virginia State Police say they will not be pulling over drivers as a method of enforcing Governor Ralph Northam’s new midnight to 5 a.m. statewide curfew.
“We will NOT be conducting traffic stops on people otherwise lawfully operating a motor vehicle during these times,” Chesterfield County Police Chief Colonel Jeffrey S. Katz wrote on Facebook. “The law requires officers to have reasonable suspicion to stop a driver. There are completely lawful reasons for people to be out and about during these times and therefore mere operation of a motor vehicle does not remotely meet the legal burden necessary to justify a lawful stop.”
Katz said he wanted to speak directly on how Chesterfield police will handle enforcement because he had received a number of questions from the public on the subject.
The overnight curfew imposed by the governor is just one part of the new COVID-19 restrictions that were announced last week.
“As a reminder, you should stay home whenever you can during the rest of the day, but from midnight to 5 a.m. you need to stay home,” Northam said during a press briefing on Thursday. “If you don’t need to go out, go home. This is just plain common sense.”
On Monday morning the measures, including the modified stay-at-home order, officially became effective.
Hanover County plans to treat curfew enforcement just like Chesterfield, according to Sheriff David R. Hines.
“The Hanover County Sheriff’s Office will not be conducting traffic stops on individuals solely for driving between 12 a.m. and 5 a.m. simply for being on the roadways,” Hines said in a statement provided to The Virginia Star. “For an officer to initiate a traffic stop, they are required to have articulate reasonable suspicion. Simply operating a motor vehicle between the hours of the curfew listed in Executive Order #72 does not rise to that level.”
Lieutenant Matthew Pecka said Henrico County police will be doing the same and that officers will still need a valid reason to execute a traffic stop, even if it is during curfew hours.
The Star contacted the Richmond Police Department public affairs office for a statement regarding enforcement of people violating the curfew, but did not get a response before press time.
A Virginia State Police public relations officer confirmed that troopers also will not be pulling over drivers. Additionally, while encouraging Virginians to do their part and help stop the spread of the virus, the state police noted that the curfew does not carry a specific penalty, civil or criminal.
Northam’s executive order does in fact make no mention of any penalty for those in violation of the curfew and lists a total of nine reasons people can leave their homes between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Obtaining necessary goods like food
- Seeking medical attention, essential social services, governmental services, assistance from law enforcement, or emergency services
- Taking care of other individuals or animals
- Traveling required by court order or to facilitate child custody, visitation, or child care
- Traveling to and from one’s residence, place of worship, or work
- Traveling to and from an educational institution
- Volunteering with organizations that provide charitable or social services
- Leaving one’s residence due to a reasonable fear for health or safety, at the direction of law enforcement, or at the direction of another government agency
An overview of the restrictions can be found here and, as previously mentioned, they are now in effect statewide starting Monday.
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