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What Is the Law on Riot in Virginia and What Are the Punishments for It?

Riots are regarded as offenses as they cause disturbance to the peace at a public place. While what is riot all about is defined in various states, its definition may vary from state to state.

Defining a Riot in the State of Virginia

When at least 3 people act together and make any illegal use of violence or force while acting together that is against the peace, law, order, or safety of the public, it is considered a riot in the State of Virginia.

Elements of Riot in Virginia

Thus the statute 18.2-405 of Virginia mentions that an unlawful event should have the elements listed below for being considered as a riot in the state:

  1. At least 3 persons should be present at a single place and act together; and
  2. There should be the use of violence or force, which has the potential to severely jeopardize public peace, order, or safety.
Virginia Riot Law

Punishments for Participating in a Riot

Any person who has been found guilty of taking part in a riot will be considered to have committed a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia.

In case, the convicted carried any dangerous or deadly weapon or any firearm during such riot, he/she will be held guilty of committing a Class 5 Felony.

Thus, the violation of this particular statute when classified as a Class 1 Misdemeanor is penalized by a maximum fine of 2,500 USD or maximum prison time of 12 months. On the other hand, when the accused possessed a dangerous or a deadly weapon during the riot, the offense is a more severe one and elevated as a Class 5 Felony. The convicted may have to serve a prison term between 1 year and 10 years or if the court or the jury feels so, there could be confinement for up to 1 year, as well as, up to 2,500 USD as fine.

Related Law-Unlawful Assembly

It is possible for the law enforcement agency of the state to also arrest people who are participating in a peaceful protest. In Virginia, an unlawful assembly is a group of at least 3 persons, who have a common goal to advance an illegal or legal purpose and:

  • Wishes to use unlawful violence or force.
  • The assemble typically intimidates or scares a reasonably brave individual into thinking that there can be a violation of public order, peace, or safety.
  • The illegal violence or force has the possibility of jeopardizing public order, peace, or safety.
Virginia Riot Law

Also, there is no need for the actual commission of violence or force for charging a person with the offense of unlawful assembly in Virginia. However, it can be more difficult to prove the justification of slapping the accused with charges concerning unlawful assembly in a court in comparison to establish the charges for participating in a riot. The prosecution, for instance, has to establish that a minimum of two individuals within the crowd had the intention to use violence or force.


When this statute is violated it can lead to a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The accused can be charged with a Class 5 Felony in Virginia when they are equipped with a dangerous or deadly weapon. Also, when a person remains at a site during an unlawful assembly or a riot even after a warning to disperse has been issued by the Law Enforcement Agency, it is regarded as a Class 3 Misdemeanor.

The defendant or accused should approach an established defense attorney so that his/her defense can be properly prepared and represented in the court in Virginia.

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