The coronavirus pandemic has brought huge changes to the world, and we have noticed that many big questions are weighing heavily on people’s minds. While we don’t have answers to the big uncertainties like how long this will last or the best ways to stay healthy, there is one commonly asked question that as criminal law attorneys we are uniquely positioned to answer: What are the criminal ramifications of violating a shelter-at-home order?
First let us say that we strongly believe that it is our moral imperative to stay home and do our part in keeping this disease from spreading. We don’t think that “I’m not sick,” is a good excuse for violating these orders because it has been proven that many people can carry COVID-19 without displaying symptoms. Venturing out of your home puts you in the position of potentially infecting someone vulnerable, or even infecting someone who will infect someone vulnerable. Lives are at stake and it’s simply not worth the risk.
That being said, we know that this is a question people are curious about even if they have no intention of violating the orders. We also know that understanding that violating shelter-at-home orders will lead to major consequences will help some realize that there are personal repercussions for violations as well as big-picture repercussions, which will hopefully discourage them from taking the risk!
So let’s get down to it.
The specific criminal charges for violating a stay-at-home order vary by city as well as by state. This is because different places have different requirements regarding the strictness of the orders, and because different police forces are handling the situation in different ways. In general, if you venture out for non-essential purposes, you would likely first be asked by police to comply and if you refuse, you may be guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. Let’s look at some examples of consequences you may face:
Fines: Many are facing tough times financially during this pandemic, and violating shelter-in-place orders can add another cost to your list. In many places, violators will be ticketed and fined.
Arrest: In other places, you will be arrested and charged for violating a shelter-in-place order. Courts take these issues seriously. An arrest will go on your criminal record and may lead to jail time.
Jail time: You may have to spend time in jail for violating orders to stay home. Now is a particularly bad time to land in jail, because like all crowded places, there is fear jails could be a breeding ground for the virus. Time in jail is more of a threat now than ever before.
Suspension of business license: If you open your non-essential business in violation of a city-wide or state-wide order, you may be subject to the revocation of your business license. This means jeopardizing your customers’ and employees’ health will also jeopardize your business’s ability to run legally in the future.
If you have more questions about criminal law in the time of coronavirus, if you’ve been accused of violating the orders, or if you’ve been accused of another crime, our law firm is here to help you. Please contact us today!