Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia

Department of State Police; Public Building Safety Law; Arson Reporting Immunity Act

§ 27-55. Department of State Police or successor agency to keep record of fires and explosions; when open to public inspection.

The Department of State Police or its successor agency shall keep in its office a record of all fires occurring in the Commonwealth, investigation of which is provided for in this article, together with all facts, statistics and circumstances concerning the same, including the origin of the fires. Such records shall not be open to public inspection, except insofar as the Department shall permit otherwise. Whenever the word "Department" appears in this article it shall be deemed to mean the Department of State Police or its successor agency in the Office of Public Safety.

Code 1919, § 4148; 1918, p. 123; 1936, p. 259; 1948, p. 487; 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-56. Department to examine into origin of fires; appointment of arson investigators.

The Department shall examine, or cause examination to be made, into the origin and circumstances of all fires occurring in this Commonwealth, which may be brought to its attention by official report, or otherwise, and for that purpose shall have authority to call for and demand of the chief or other head officer of the fire department, and the chief or other head officer of the police department, of any city or town, and the sheriff of any county, for any information or assistance it may require in making or furthering such examination.

The Department shall appoint a chief arson investigator and assistant arson investigators, who shall have the same police powers as a sheriff in the investigation and prosecution of all offenses involving fires, fire bombings, bombings, attempts, threats to commit such offense, false alarms relating to any such offense, possession and manufacture of explosive devices, substances and firebombs.

Code 1919, § 4186; 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-57. When insurance company to pay expenses of examination.

When such examination is made on the application of any fire insurance company, the necessary expenses attending the same shall be paid by such company.

Code 1919, § 4186.

§ 27-58. Right to examine buildings or premises.

The Department, and such person or persons as it may appoint, shall have authority at all times of the day, in the performance of the duties imposed by the provisions of § 27-56, to enter upon and examine any building or premises where any fire has occurred, and any other buildings or premises immediately adjoining the same; provided, that such adjoining building is not at the time occupied and used as a dwelling house.

Code 1919, § 4187; 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-59. Criminal prosecutions.

If the Department shall be of opinion, after investigation as to the cause or origin of any fire, that there is sufficient evidence to charge any person with the crime of arson, or with incendiary burning of property, it shall furnish to the attorney for the Commonwealth of the city or county all such evidence, together with the names of witnesses, and all information obtained by it, including a copy of all pertinent and material testimony taken by it touching such offense.

Code 1919, § 4188; 1918, p. 123; 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-60. Department to conduct investigations in certain cases; investigations may be private.

The Department may petition an appropriate judicial officer to summons and compel the attendance of witnesses to testify in relation to any matter which is, by the provisions of this chapter, a subject of inquiry and investigation. It may also administer oaths and affirmations to such witnesses, and false swearing in any such matter shall be deemed perjury, and shall be punished as such. It may in its discretion take or cause to be taken the testimony on oath of all persons supposed to be cognizant of any facts or to have means of knowledge in relation to the matters as to which any examination is, in this chapter, required to be made, and shall cause the same to be reduced to writing. Investigations in relation to such matters may, in the discretion of the Department, be private, and persons other than those required to be present by the provisions of this chapter may be excluded from that place where such examination is held, and witnesses may be kept separate and apart from each other, and not allowed to communicate with each other until they have been examined.

Code 1919, § 4189; 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-61. When Department or fire chief may remedy inflammable or unsafe conditions.

The Department of Fire Programs, by its representative, or the chief or other head of the fire department of any county, city or town or district thereof, shall have the right, at all reasonable hours, for the purpose of examination, to enter into and upon any public school building or any other building or premises not at the time occupied and used as a dwelling house, within their respective jurisdictions, for examination as to combustible materials or inflammable or unsafe conditions in any such building or upon any such premises. Upon complaint of any person having an interest in any building or premises or property adjacent thereto, in his jurisdiction, an officer shall make an immediate investigation as to the presence of any combustible materials or the existence of inflammable or unsafe conditions in such buildings or upon such premises. Whenever any officer finds in any building or upon any premises combustible, inflammable or unsafe conditions, dangerous to the safety of the building or premises, or other property, he shall order the same to be removed or remedied, and the order shall, within a reasonable time to be fixed in the order, be complied with by the owner or occupant of the building or premises.

Any owner or occupant aggrieved by such order may within five days after notice of such order, appeal to the Department of Fire Programs, and the cause of his complaint shall be at once investigated by the Executive Director of the Department of Fire Programs, and unless by its authority such order is revoked, the order shall remain in force and the owner or occupant shall comply with the order.

Any owner or occupant of any building or premises failing to comply with any final order made or given under the authority of this section, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and punished by a fine of not less than $5 nor more than $100 for each offense.

Code 1919, § 4190; 1936, p. 776; 1977, c. 613; 1988, c. 199; 2007, cc. 647, 741.

§ 27-62. Penalty on local officers for violating law.

Any city, town or county officer referred to in this article who willfully neglects or refuses to comply with any of the requirements of this article shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not less than $5, nor more than $100.

Code 1919, § 4192.

§§ 27-63, 27-64. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§ 27-65. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-66. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-66.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1989, c. 258.

§ 27-67. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-68. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-69. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-70. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-70.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§ 27-70.2. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-71. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1977, c. 613.

§ 27-72. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§ 27-73. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1989, c. 258.

§ 27-73.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§§ 27-74 through 27-77. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1977, c. 613.

§§ 27-78, 27-78.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1989, c. 258.

§ 27-79. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§§ 27-79.1 through 27-79.8. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-79.9. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1989, c. 258.

§§ 27-80 through 27-84. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1988, c. 199.

§§ 27-85, 27-85.1. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1981, c. 499.

§ 27-85.2. Repealed.

Repealed by Acts 1989, c. 258.

§ 27-85.3. Short title.

This article shall be known as the Arson Reporting Immunity Act.

1979, c. 279.

§ 27-85.4. Definitions.

For the purposes of this article:

"Action" includes nonaction or the failure to take action.

"Authorized agencies" means:

i. The chief or director of any municipal or county fire or police department or the sheriff of any county;

ii. The arson investigator of the State Police Department; the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Division of the United States Department of the Treasury; or

iii. The attorney for the Commonwealth or other person responsible for prosecutions in the jurisdiction where the fire occurred.

"Insurance company" includes the Virginia Property Insurance Association.

1979, c. 279; 1985, c. 58; 2008, c. 410.

§ 27-85.5. Disclosure of information.

A. Any authorized agency may, in writing, require an insurance company to release to the requesting agency any or all relevant information or evidence deemed material by the requesting agency in the insurance company's possession relating to the fire loss in question. Relevant information may include, but shall not be limited to:

1. Pertinent insurance policy information relevant to a fire loss under investigation and any application for such a policy;

2. Policy premium payment records;

3. History of previous claims made by the insured;

4. Material relating to the investigation of the loss, including statements of any person, proof of loss, and any other evidence relevant to the investigation.

B. 1. When an insurance company has reason to believe that a fire loss in which it has an interest may be of other than accidental cause, then, for the purpose of notification and for having such fire loss investigated, the company shall, in writing, notify an authorized agency and provide it with any or all material developed from the company's inquiry into the fire loss.

2. When an insurance company provides any one of the authorized agencies with notice of a fire loss, it shall be sufficient notice for the purpose of this article.

C. The authorized agency provided with information pursuant to subsections A or B of this section and in furtherance of its own purposes, may release or provide such information to any of the other authorized agencies.

D. Any insurance company providing information to an authorized agency or agencies pursuant to subsections A or B of this section shall have the right to request relevant information and receive, within a reasonable time, not to exceed thirty days, the information requested.

E. Any insurance company, or person acting in its behalf or authorized agency who releases information, whether oral or written, pursuant to subsections A or B of this section shall be immune from any liability arising out of a civil action, or penalty resulting from a criminal prosecution unless actual malice on the part of the insurance company or authorized agency is present.

1979, c. 279.

§ 27-85.6. Evidence.

Any authorized agency and insurance company described in § 27-85.4 or § 27-85.5 who receives any information furnished pursuant to this article, shall hold the information in confidence until such time as its release is required pursuant to a criminal or civil proceeding, except release in accordance with subsection C of § 27-85.5.

1979, c. 279.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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