Mixed in with some well-publicized new Virginia laws that went into effect Monday are some lesser-known and seemingly bizarre pieces of legislation that are now the law of the land, at least in Virginia.
One of these is a new law that makes it illegal for bail bond agents to have sex with their customers.
HB2294, now an enforceable law, makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for any owner or employee of a bail bond company in Virginia — that has posted bond for any pretrial or post-trial offender — to “carnally know” that offender.
“It actually came about as a result of this type of abuse occurring in Virginia,” said Del. Tony Wilt (R-Harrisonburg), who sponsored the bill. “It was not rampant across the Commonwealth, but there were some cases of very extreme behavior and horrible examples brought before us that made me realize that this law was needed.”
According to the Virginia Bail Agents Association, which petitioned for the law, one such case arose in Chesapeake last year in which a woman reported that her bond agent coerced her to have sex with him, live with him, and even abort a baby, under threat of having her bond revoked.
“He faced no criminal charges, despite being investigated by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office,” said Michael Donovan, a lobbyist with the VBAA.
Another case occurred in 2011 under similar circumstances, according to the Virginia Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, which also petitioned for the law.
“It was a black eye to the industry because bondsmen were not included in any categories under Virginia code in which carnal knowledge of clients was prohibited,” said Wilt. “The industry actually called for this law themselves. No one spoke against it. You have to realize that bondsmen are often the very first people who come in contact with desperate people after an arrest or a sentencing. ”
Tony Millner, a bondsman and member of the Virginia Bail Agents Association, said that he has been faced with exactly that type of situation.
“I have often had women come up to me and say ‘I will do anything to get my boyfriend out of jail,’” he said. “What I do is tell them that however they get it is their business, but I only accept cash.”
Another law that went into effect Monday was HB 1481, which requires metal scrap buyers to ask for proper government identification and to visually document any “proprietary” items brought to them such as manhole covers, highway guardrails, bronze cemetery urns, and stadium bleacher seats.
“It basically institutes ‘pawn shop’ rules into the scrap metal market,” said Robert Q. Harris, director of the Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Services Council. “The law essentially cleans up record keeping within the scrap metal market and makes it easier to trace anything that may later be reported as stolen. There were some extreme cases of people going into graveyards and stealing brass urns. I think that was the impetus for this law.”