Appears to be bad news. This is not a matter for preemption, it's current in the Code of Virginia.
There are two parts to this law, first the killing of a deer using lights, and second, the presumption of guilt if you are lighting deer while in possession of a firearm.
The first part says to kill the deer in actual
violation of this statute, you must "use ... a light attached to any vehicle or a spotlight or a flashlight" [notice, no "from any vehicle"]. The second part, however, says "the flashing of a light attached to any vehicle or a spotlight or flashlight from any vehicle...".
Notice the subtle difference? If you kill the deer, you break the law if the light is attached to any vehicle, but also any
spotlight or flashlight. To be presumed guilty
(no dead deer), the light must be attached
or from any vehicle
, and while you are in possession of a firearm.
Is this subtle difference on purpose? I would certainly not want to test the game warden on that, however it would make for an interesting casual conversation while looking at a copy of the law over a root beer.
I am not at all familiar with the sort of person who would violate this law, but as a person who "hangs out" here among those who regularly carry firearms and somehow manage to go without actually
breaking laws, I have to say it's very disturbing that this law presumes criminal activity by mere possession of a firearm while conducting otherwise legal activity
. (I assume it is "legal" to spotlight deer if you are not carrying a firearm.) ETA: oops, apparently it is not... see the post before!
Looks like this one will have to be changed through "the process".
ETA: Correction, apparently spotlighting is not legal even without a firearm. Is this new?
§ 29.1-523. Killing deer by use of certain lights; acts raising presumption of attempt to kill.
Any person who kills or attempts to kill any deer
between a half hour after sunset and a half hour before sunrise by use of a light attached to any vehicle or a spotlight or flashlight
shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. The flashing of a light attached to any vehicle or a spotlight or flashlight from any vehicle between a half hour after sunset and half hour before sunrise by any person or persons, then in possession of a firearm
, crossbow, or bow and arrow or speargun, without good cause, shall raise a presumption of an attempt to kill deer in violation of this section
. Every person in or on any such vehicle shall be deemed a principal in the second degree and subject to the same punishment as a principal in the first degree. Every person who, in any manner, aids, abets or acts in concert with any person or persons violating this section shall be deemed a principal in the second degree and subject to the same punishment as a principal in the first degree.
In addition to the penalty prescribed herein, the court shall revoke the current hunting license, if any, of the person convicted of violating this section and prohibit the issuance of any hunting license to that person for the next license year. If found hunting during this prohibited period, the person shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. Notification of such revocation or prohibition shall be forwarded to the Department pursuant to subsections C and D of § 18.2-56.1.
This section shall not apply to persons duly authorized to kill deer according to the provisions of § 29.1-529.