The man behind the mask Friday was no iconic comic book villain, but Jeremy Putman, age 31, walking Winchester, VA, streets with bright Green hair, wearing a black cape, and wielding a sword. Suspicious is how people calling 9-1-1, Winchester Emergency Communications Center, described Putman.

Putnam was arrested and premiered in custody at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center. He is charged with the felony of wearing a mask in public, a charge which could lead to 5 years punishment in jail. His bond is set at $2,000.

Masking identity is a serious crime

Mask wearing in Virginia is not a joking matter, according to police, wanting to remind people that it is a felony. The state’s anti-mask law, dating back to the 1940s, was enacted to inhibit Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members who wore hoods to conceal their identities while intimidating and perpetrating acts of violence.

Virginia Code 18.2-422 essentially states that it is unlawful for people over 16-years-old to wear a mask – or another device covering a good part of their face — in public, intending to hide their identity.

There are times and places that the anti-mask law does not apply: Halloween (costumes), protective masks worn for public safety or health issues, theatrical costumes, and performances, and masquerade balls.

Several states have anti-mask statutes

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported, in 1999, that at least 18 states have anti-mask laws passed between the 1950s and the 1990s.

Laws limiting situations when and where masks can be worn in effect in many states, including Washington, D.C. Not only are the statutes are intended to curtail KKK activities, but the laws are also intended to penalize people for concealing their faces while committing crimes so that they remain unidentified.

Police Officer Ericson Harrell was protesting when he was arrested in 2013 in Florida and charged with wearing a hood or a mask on the street, as well as obstructing traffic. He refused to tell police his identity. Florida's anti-mask law, which was enacted in 1951, is a necessary crime-fighting tool, according to police.

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