Virginia isn’t joking about its mask laws.
Winchester police arrested a man dressed as the Joker on Friday and slapped him with a felony ― a grim reminder of the state’s strict mask law that bars almost anyone from concealing their face in public.
Jeremy Putman, 31, was called in for walking around town in the creepy clown villain makeup while carrying a sword, according to a press release. Responding officers were apparently less worried about the weapon, and focused instead on Putnam’s face, which was covered in white paint to emulate Batman’s rival.
“[Putnam] is charged with wearing a mask in public and is being held at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center under a $2,000 secured bond,” the release states. “Officers do not believe there are additional suspects, but want to remind the community of the seriousness of the crime.”
Indeed, the law, which makes it illegal for anyone over 16 to wear a mask or otherwise conceal their face, was put forth decades ago to combat robbers and the Ku Klux Klan, according to The Washington Post. Masks donned on Halloween, face coverings used during certain weather conditions, and masks worn during performances are some of the few exceptions.
But Virginia is just one of many states with mask laws and policies ― though they’re rarely enforced for their stated purpose.
In Detroit, a similar law was used to thwart protesters wearing Lone Ranger masks during a demonstration in 2000. In New York, police cited protesters during the Occupy Wall Street protests with a little-known mask law that forbids masked people in groups of two or more.