Traps for the unwary! Strict liability felonies in Virginia.

There are some crimes that people can commit without knowing the law is “on the books.” Or even committing it entirely inadvertently if they did know. These are called “strict liability” offenses, and they do not require that the prosecution show any intent on your part to convict you and imprison you. Here are some examples still in Virginia law:

Taking a gun onto school property (Code § 18.2-308.1(B)) is prohibited regardless of whether the person intended to bring a firearm onto school grounds. Even bringing one there in a container like a backpack when you forgot it was there is enough to convict someone of this.

With a charge for Statutory rape (Code § 18.2-61(A)(iii)) the only thing the prosecution must show is the victim’s and accused’s dates of birth and prove that sexual intercourse occurred. The adult’s honest belief that the victim was of age is not a defense. 

Bigamy (Code § 18.2-362) is a forgotten crime today with changing societal mores about sexuality. But marrying another person before a divorce is finalized is a felony. Nor is it a defense to go to another state, get married, and return to Virginia using the out-of-state wedding to evade the law!

Bringing a controlled substance into a jail or prison (Code § 53.1-203(5)) is a common tripwire that those with addiction issues face and one that frequently puts them in a legal dilemma: admit to the officer arresting you that you have the substance and waive your right to self-incrimination or accept two felony charges? Nevertheless, it is no defense that the person forgets what they have on their person and they are being compelled to enter a facility when being taken into custody!

The takeaway from these strict liability offenses is that, when charged with them, an attorney becomes crucial to regaining your freedom—one who can recognize other issues besides lack of intent, like unlawful searches, statements taken from you without being advised of your Miranda rights, problems with the chain of custody, or other affirmative defenses.

If you or someone you know is facing a charge who has unwittingly committed an offense, strict-liability of otherwise, and they live in the Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield, or Hanover area, call us today at 804-423-1382 or email us at and we can help!​