Is it a Crime to Wear a Mask in Virginia?
After dressing up as a comic book character and meandering on public streets, a Winchester man faces criminal charges for wearing a mask, as reported by the Winchester Police Department.
Authorities responded to several reports of a man dressed as the “Joker” from the Batman comic series. Police officers arrested the 31-year-old perpetrator on the 2600 block of South Pleasant Valley Road. The perpetrator now faces felony charges for concealing his identity with mask in public.
Considering the severity of this development, it is important to remember that it is a crime to conceal your identity with mask in Virginia. We will explore exactly what that means in the sections below.
How Does Virginia Address Wearing Masks?
Code of Virginia section 18.2-95 provides the definition for the crime of wearing masks in public. Essentially, it is a crime in Virginia for any person above the age of 16 years old to wear a mask in public with the intent to conceal identity. Stated otherwise, if a person wears a mask that makes it impossible to ascertain their identity, it is a crime.
This crime also applies to wearing masks on private property. In order to wear a mask that conceals the wearer’s identity on private property, the wearer must secure written permission from the property owner or tenant.
Are there Exceptions to Virginia Laws on Wearing Masks?
Code of Virginia section 18.2-95 outlines four major exceptions to the rule against wearing masks in public:
- Holiday Costumes – It is not a crime to wear a mask that is part of a traditional holiday costume, such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
- Physical Safety – It is not a crime to wear a mask as part of required safety procedures in a particular job, profession or trade. This exception applies to construction workers, firefighters, etc.
- Theatrical Events – It is not a crime to wear a mask as part of legitimate events where masks are an essential characteristic, such as a theatrical production or a masquerade ball.
- Medical Purposes – It is not a crime to wear a mask under certain medical circumstances, such as under doctor’s orders or upon a governmental declaration of disaster or state of emergency. In either case, the medical or governmental justification must list a specific time limit for the wearing of masks.
What are the Penalties for Wearing Masks in Virginia?
Code of Virginia section 18.2-95 makes it a Class 6 felony to wear a mask that conceals the wearer’s identity. The penalty involves one to five years in prison and fines up to $2,500.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
Whether you are facing charges for wearing a mask or other criminal offenses, the combination of steep penalties and the stigma of a criminal record can seem overwhelming. In our digital age, it can seem extremely difficult to remain innocent until proven guilty. That is where a seasoned criminal defense attorney can make a true difference. If you have questions about wearing a mask or other criminal offenses, please feel free to contact Simms Showers LLP as soon as possible to start planning your defense.