The Bulletin

Va. Senate votes to require police to tell drivers why they were pulled over

By: - January 27, 2022 4:54 pm

Police closed Broad Street in Richmond to traffic during a pro-gun rally on Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Senate voted Thursday to require police officers to tell drivers why they are being pulled over before requiring them to present their driver’s license and registration.

Democrats, who unanimously backed the measure over opposition from Republicans, framed the change as a limited step that could hopefully deescalate traffic stops.

“When people are stopped, they generally want to know why,” Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, who proposed the measure, told his colleagues.

Surovell described the bill as a minor change to state code. He said that if an officer did not follow the new rule, the only legal ramifications would be that the officer would be unable to write a ticket for failure to provide identification, which he said carries a $10 fine and is seldom used.

Republican lawmakers unanimously opposed the measure, arguing that it could make police work more dangerous.

“I don’t think it’s a terrible imposition on motorists or anybody else to have to provide their driver’s license and registration when a police officer asks for it,” said Sen. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake. “To me, this is just a way for lawyers to get somebody off the hook.”

The bill now heads to the House of Delegates, where Republicans hold a majority and are unlikely to advance the measure.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.