From a $25,000 Fine to a Warning: Here’s How States Are Enforcing Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Orders
With nearly all of the U.S. under a stay at home order to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, states are deciding how to enforce the restrictions
With the new coronavirus, COVID-19, sweeping across the U.S., the residents of all but five states are now under full or partial stay-at-home orders in an effort to slow the virus’ spread.
What the stay at home orders mean for each state will differ. While the general idea is to restrict residents with non-essential jobs from leaving their home for anything other than necessary tasks, such as getting groceries, picking up medications and going on socially distanced walks or runs, the definition of “necessary” varies by location. Florida, for example, is still allowing public gatherings for religious and worship services, despite the federal recommendation to limit groups to 10 people.
And the penalties for violating stay-at-home orders vary widely between states. Some states, such as Maryland, where violators face one year in jail or up to a $5,000 fee, have been direct about the possible fines. Others, like Washington, just said that residents “may be subject to criminal penalties” without specifying what that entails.
Many cities are also deciding on fees independently of their state, and people should check with their local government for the most updated information. However, the message for all is clear: Stay home or pay up.
Here’s how the states under full stay at home orders are enforcing the restrictions, based on the information they have made available.
Alaska declared its order on March 28, and any business or organization found in violation is subject to a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation, according to the state.
Additionally, an individual who goes against the order “may, under certain circumstances,” be charged with reckless endangerment, if they are risking the lives of others. In Alaska, that is a class A misdemeanor, and a person can be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $25,000.
Gov. Doug Ducey drew criticism, however, for exempting golf courses from the order.
California was the first state to go to a stay-at-home order, which Gov. Gavin Newsom put in place on March 19.
Newsom said that residents and businesses would be subject to misdemeanor penalties for violating the order, but he hoped that social pressure would push people to “do the right thing,” NBC Los Angeles reported. However, the state has since had to fine some people who were in violation, including a surfer in Manhattan Beach who received a $1,000 fine.
“99.99% of this can be done without any criminal penalty,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, according to the Los Angeles Times. “But we’re prepared, if anybody is an outlier, because one person can be a super spreader, one person can kill someone, one person can kill themselves.”
The state did not specify its fine, but said that going against the order is considered breaking the law.
“We are calling for voluntary compliance by all affected; however, local law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce this law,” Colorado’s website states. Local law enforcement enforces public health orders. State law enforcement will assist and support in any way requested, but our hope is that involvement by law enforcement is reserved only for the most aggravated circumstances.”
The state has been under a stay-at-home order since March 23. Information on regulation is not readily available.
In Delaware, violating the order is a “criminal offence,” according to the state. Anyone found in violation can be fined up to $500, or six months in jail for each violation.
District of Columbia
Mayor Muriel Bowser implemented the order on March 30, and said that anyone in violation is subject to a fine of up to $5,000, a prison stay of no more than 30 days, or both.
After weeks of criticism for inaction, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis instituted a “Safer at Home” order that goes into effect on April 3. State Attorney Dave Aronberg said that violators could be put in jail for up to 60 days, according to Fox 29.
Gov. Brian Kemp was also criticized for his response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and is now implementing a stay-at-home order, effective April 3. The state has not yet announced the details on the order or penalties, however several counties in the state previously said violators would be fined.
Hawaii’s stay-at-home order was put in place on March 25, and Gov. David Ige said violators face a fine of up to $5,000 or up to a year in jail.
“The threat of COVID-19 is unprecedented and requires aggressive action,” Ige said, according to The New York Times.
The state went under its order on March 25, and officials said that they hope not to penalize violators.
“State and local law enforcement will enforce, but they are taking an educational approach with citizens,” Idaho’s website explains.
Illinois was another early-adopter of a stay-at-home order, which began March 21. Initially the state did not implement fines, but officials later said they would give any large groups a citation and a fine of up to $500, according to NBC 5.
In Indiana, any violators could be charged with a class B misdemeanor, which includes a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Under the state’s order, it is up to local jurisdictions to enforce and charge anyone found in violation.
Kentucky’s order is called “Healthy at Home,” and it did not specify fine amounts for violators.
The Louisiana order, which went into effect on March 23, does not specify a fine. Gov. John Bel Edwards said March 30 that residents need to do a better job of sticking to the order.
“My first message to everybody out there is to comply with the stay-at-home order,” he said, according to The News-Star. “We need people to honor the stay-at-home order. We need to have better compliance than we have.”
Maine Gov. Janet Mills put the state under a stay-at-home order as of April 2, and violators face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Beginning March 30, Maryland residents are under a stay-at-home order and are subject to a year in jail or up to a $5,000 fine for violating the order.
“We are no longer asking or suggesting Marylanders stay at home,” said Gov. Larry Hogan.
Residents who violate Massachusetts’ stay-at-home order are penalized using a tiered system. First time violators are issued a warning. For the second time, they will be fined up to $300, and for any further violations, they face up to a $500 fine or jail time, according to WBUR.
Initially, Michigan’s stay-at-home order was enforced with a civil penalty of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail. However, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon upped the fine to up to $1,000 on April 2, according to the Detroit Metro-Times.
Gov. Tim Walz said that anyone in violation of Minnesota’s stay-at-home order could face a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail, though he hoped it would not have to be enforced.
“We don’t want them to be arrested. We want to educate people. This requires voluntary social compliance,” he said, according to KTOE.
The state’s shelter-in-place directive began on April 3, and no fines or penalties were specified.
Montana’s order, which went in place on March 28, does not carry a specific fine, and law enforcement would decide on a “case by case basis,” according to the Great Falls Tribune.
Gov. Steve Sisolak put the order in place on April 1 and did not specify any fines, but said that businesses that do not comply “may be subject to criminal prosecution and civil penalties.”
The state’s order leaves enforcement up to police, and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said the goal is to educate, hopefully not to fine people.
“These orders have [been] issued to address a public health emergency and are intended to promote and secure the protection of the health of the people of New Hampshire,” he said in a memorandum to law enforcement, the Sentinel Source reported. “Therefore, the primary enforcement objectives should be to inform the public of the order, its importance to public health and to seek voluntary compliance.”
Residents initially faced a fine of up to $1,000, but after the state had to break up several parties — including one of nearly 50 people — Gov. Phil Murphy upped the fine to up to $10,000 and 18 months in prison, calling the violators “knuckleheads.”
“Let me be clear – we are taking a zero-tolerance policy against anyone who acts so stupidly and puts others in danger or makes them fear for their health,” Murphy said, according to the Philly Voice.
The state order, which went into effect on March 24, does not specify fines or penalties, and leaves enforcement up to individual cities.
New York was the second state to go under a stay-at-home order, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state does not plan to fine individual people who violate the order.
Anyone found violating North Carolina’s stay-at-home order can be charged with a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, ABC 11 reported.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was an early enforcer of a stay-at-home order. Those in violation can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which comes with a $750 fine and up to 90 days in jail, however DeWine said he did not expect anyone to be jailed, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
In Oregon, people found violating the stay-at-home order can be charged with a class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,250, up to 30 days in jail or both, according to The Oregonian.
Gov. Tom Wolf resisted a statewide stay-at-home order until April 1. Any fines or penalties are left up to individual cities.
Rhode Island’s order, which went into effect on March 28, carries an unspecified fine for residents found in violation.
Gov. Bill Lee placed the state in a stay-at-home order effective March 31, however it did not specify any fines or penalties. Much like Florida, Lee also included churches as essential.
Although there was initially some confusion, a statewide order went into effect on April 2. Additionally, an emergency mandate in the city of Laredo, which went into effect on the same day, requires that every person over the age of 5 must wear “some form of covering over their nose and mouth” in public — or risk fines of up to $1,000.
The order, which went into effect on March 25, does not specify any fines or penalties.
Virginia’s order went into effect on March 30, and carries a fine of up to $2,500 and/or up to a year in jail.
The state is home to the nation’s first case and death, and became the first epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. Gov. Jay Inslee put the state in a stay-at-home order on March 23, however specific fines or penalties were not stated. Instead, the order says that residents “may be subject to criminal penalties.”
West Virginia was the last state to have a confirmed case, but Gov. Jim Justice implemented a stay-at-home order relatively early, on March 25. The order leaves any fines or penalties up to law enforcement.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers placed residents under a stay-at-home order on March 25, and violators are subject to up to 30 days in jail, a $250 fine or both.
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