Although still illegal, jaywalking (among other things) will not be considered a primary offense.
Jaywalking in Virginia will no longer be a primary offense come March 1.
The bill includes a variety of transgressions that will no longer be considered primary offenses, that is, a person should not be stopped by an officer solely because of that infraction. It also covers "evidence discovered or obtained" due to a stop that will soon be considered "unlawful." In addition to the possession of marijuana and jaywalking, the bill also covers lights for license plates, brake lights, exhaust systems, shaded windows, and things hanging from the rear-view mirror.
Introduced by Delegate Patrick Hope (Democrat, Arlington) proponents of criminal justice reform hope that this will help balance encounters with police, particularly for those of color. A number of cases have been made for the disproportionate amount of citations for "walking while black," such as Vox's report from Jacksonville Florida. There is no statistical information on the subject concerning Virginia, however. Brad Haywood, founder and executive director of Justice Forward Virginia says this is because "data on police encounters is difficult to gather, especially on something like this because jaywalking is very frequently just a pretext for stopping someone and not the actual thing the police officer wants to investigate” in an interview with Inside Nova and WTOP News.
Of course, there are those who worry that the bill could encourage pedestrians to jaywalk and thereby put themselves in a dangerous situation. In February of this year, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported that pedestrian fatalities increased 53 percent between 2009 and 2018 and that trend does not seem to be going down. Alexandria Families for Safer Streets founder Mike Doyle stated "the fact that jaywalking is used as a tool to profile folks is appalling, but the reality is that jaywalking is a risky proposition.” To be sure, the person is going to lose in almost any person versus vehicle situation.
Haygood doesn't think that is cause for concern. “Maybe people will behave differently when there is a cop looking directly at them at an intersection, but other than that I don’t think anything will change. Around where I live the cops jaywalk too.”
What's the jaywalking situation like in your area? Do you live in a neighborhood with dangerous intersections? Even if you're not worried about it at all, let us know in the comments below!