Virginia criminalizes a number of acts involving assembling with a group of people for an unlawful purpose. These offenses include unlawful assembly, rioting, mob participation, and unlawful paramilitary activity, all discussed below. In most cases, every member of the group is responsible for any crimes committed by any other member of the group.
Unlawful Assembly in Virginia
An unlawful assembly in Virginia is a group of 3 or more people gathered together with the intent to commit acts of force or violence. To prove that an offender participated in an unlawful assembly in Virginia for conviction under Va. Code §18.2-406, the Commonwealth must show that:
- the offender was in a group of 3 or more people
- the offender had the intent to commit acts of unlawful force or violence
- that intent was shared with at least 2 other people in the group
- the acts of force or violence were likely to jeopardize public safety, peace or order, and
- the assembly tended to inspire persons or ordinary courage with well-grounded fear of serious and immediate breaches of public safety, peace or order.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor to participate in an unlawful assembly in Virginia under §18.2-406. It is punished with up to 12 months in jail and a fine up to $2500. If a member of the unlawful assembly carried a firearm or other deadly or dangerous weapon, it is a Class 5 felony, punished with up to 10 years in prison. For more information on what is considered a deadly weapon in Virginia, click here.
A riot is a group of 3 or more people who, acting together, unlawfully use force or violence. It is criminalized under Va. Code §18.2-405. An offender can be convicted of participating in a riot under Va. Code §18.2-405 even he is not the one who actually used force or violence. A riot is basically an unlawful assembly that actually commits acts of force or violence. To convict an offender of participation in a riot under Va. Code §18.2-405, the Commonwealth must prove that the offender:
- was in a group of 3 or more people
- the group used force or violence
- the force or violence jeopardized public safety, peace or order.
Conviction for participation in a riot under Va. Code §18.2-405 is a Class 1 misdemeanor. However, if the rioter carried a firearm or other deadly or dangerous weapon at the time of the riot, the offense is a felony punished with up to 10 years in prison. Click here for more information on deadly weapons in Virginia.
A mob is any col of group of people gathered unlawfully to commit an assault and battery or any act of violence (Va. Code §18.2-38). Participation in a mob by itself is not a crime. However, a mob will generally also be considered an unlawful assembly in Virginia, discussed above, which is a crime. Additionally, a member of any group deemed to be a mob is responsible for any crimes committed by any member of the mob and can be convicted of the crime.
A mob that actually commits an assault and battery or other act of violence is considered a riot. An offender can be convicted of both a riot and the violent crime committed by the mob. Assault and battery by a mob is a Class 1 misdemeanor under Va. Code §18.2-42.
If a group that is riotously or unlawfully assembled commits a premeditated injury on another person, the offense is a Class 6 felony under Va. Code §18.2-414. If the mob commits an unlawful or malicious wounding or bodily injury, every member of the mob can be charged and convicted under Va. Code §18.2-41 of unlawful or malicious wounding by a mob. This offense is a Class 3 felony, punished with 5-20 years in prison. If the mob commits an act of violence against a person resulting in death, the offense is considered lynching under Va. Code §18.2-39. Va. Code §18.2-40 states that any member of a mob can be convicted of lynching if a person died as a result of acts of force or violence from the mob. Lynching is punished the same way as murder in Virginia.
Failure to Disperse from Riot or Unlawful Assembly in Virginia
It is a Class 3 misdemeanor under §18.2-407 to remain at the place of a riot or unlawful assembly in Virginia after receiving a lawful order to disperse. To convict an offender of failing to disperse from a riot or unlawful assembly in Virginia under §18.2-407, the Commonwealth must prove that a riot or unlawful assembly occurred, the offender received a lawful warning to disperse, and the offender remained at the place of the riot or unlawful assembly after receiving the warning to disperse.
Resisting or aiding in the execution of process after a lawful order to disperse from a riot insurrection after publication of a governors proclamation is a Class 5 felony under Va. Code §18.2-413. To convict an offender of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove that a governor’s proclamation declared that the area in question was in a state of riot or insurrection.
Va. Code §18.2-413 also criminalizes aiding ot attempting to aid in the rescue or escape of a person in lawful confinement. To convict an offender of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove that there was a riot, there was a lawful order to disperse, and after that order the offender aided or attempted to help someone escape.
Unlawful Paramilitary Activity
Va. Code §18.2-433.2 makes unlawful paramilitary activity a felony. Unlawful paramilitary activity is teaching a person to use or make a firearm, explosive device, or technique capable of causing injury or death, with reason to know that the training will be used in furtherance of civil disorder. The statute also prohibits assembling with people for the training in the use of a firearm, explosive or other technique capable of causing injury or death to people for the use in civil disorder. A civil disorder does not need to actually occur to be convicted of this offense.
A civil disorder it is defined in §18.2-433.1 as “any public disturbance within the United States or any territorial possessions thereof involving acts of violence by assemblages of three or more persons, which causes an immediate danger of or results in damage or injury to the property or person of any other individual.”