The coronavirus lockdown has left many of us thinking of little else the coronavirus. It has even dramatically affected the criminal justice system, with police arresting fewer people in an effort to keep the jail population down. That being said, there are still many crimes taking place right now, including some new crimes like breaking social distancing laws, which is why we put together another coronavirus crime roundup for this week.
Breaking Social Distancing Laws
One of the most commonly occurring crimes right now is the breaking of social distancing laws. In San Diego, at least 50 people have been given misdemeanor citations for visiting the beaches which have been closed after people crowded in on the beaches in mid-March despite California’s social distancing order. In other states, one man in Ohio was actually arrested for livestreaming a video of himself at a party where everyone was breaking social distancing laws, literally saying “we don’t give a f— about the coronavirus.” Violating the stay-at-home order is punishable by a fine of up to $1000 and up to six months in jail although police are trying to avoid putting anyone behind bars for the time being.
People Continue Coughing on Things
No coronavirus crime roundup would be complete without mentioning some of the many people who have been intentionally coughing on things in stores, gas stations, even their own workplaces. Whether because people see or read news stories of other people doing it, because they are mentally ill, or because they actually have ill-intent and want to intentionally infect other people, there has been a rash of news stories where people have intentionally coughed on objects since the outbreak started. In one case, a doctor was even arrested after intentionally coughing on co-workers. While most of these people have proven to actually be Covid-19 negative, they could still face very serious charges, which may include attempted battery, criminal threats, disorderly conduct, vandalism, knowingly exposing someone to an infectious disease and food tampering depending on the specifics of the situation. If anyone is actually sick with the coronavirus and does infect someone else, they could also face battery or even terrorism charges as Covid-19 is being considered a biological agent.
Seniors are one of the most high-risk communities for the virus, which is why nursing homes filled with seniors are particularly dangerous. Unfortunately, when outbreaks happen in these institutions, many nurses and other employees don’t want to risk their own health to care for the elderly. In one particularly heart-breaking news story, residents at a nursing home in Riverside had to be evacuated after a large number of residents and employees tested positive for the virus and then employees refused to show up for their shift.
Riverside County’s public health officer Cameron Kaiser has said those employees could potentially face charges of senior abandonment charges, though this charge may be difficult to prove as the employees could potentially argue their behavior was a form of self defense against the disease.
A lot of people have been turning to Zoom during the lockdown to socialize or perform business meetings. But the site isn’t very secure and Zoom Bombing has become a popular hobby of many trolls and hackers. While many people think this activity is relatively harmless bit of trolling, it’s actually considered hacking and can leave people open to criminal charges.
Even worse, some people have been crashing Zoom meetings is often done with shocking images and videos, which may sometimes include illegal content like child pornography. Those sharing this can easily be charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, even if they were only doing it to troll and not for purposes of sexual gratification.
Before any official numbers came out, domestic violence lawyer Peter Liss predicted the stay-at-home order would cause a spike in domestic violence incidents. While numbers are still coming in and will likely rise as time wears on, domestic violence hotlines are reporting increased calls and NBC News reported that 18 of 22 police departments they spoke with reported an increase in domestic assault incidents.
Overall Impact of the Coronavirus on Crime
It’s worth finishing up this coronavirus crime roundup by pointing out that crime in general has actually gone down since the social distancing laws went into effect. In fact, traffic stops and stops of people on the street have dropped 92% and theft crimes have dropped dramatically as well. Sadly though, hate crimes against people of Asian descent are up. On the upside, while we have previously discussed how authorities are trying to thin the population of people behind bars, around 25% of people in a private work furlough program were also recently fitted with ankle monitors to thin out the population of people in the residential facility.
Negative Consequences of Being Charged with a Crime Right Now
While we’ve already discussed how anyone arrested and booked in jail will be held for a longer period than usual right now due to court hearings stopping, even getting a citation for a misdemeanor can still have serious implications. That is because being charged with a crime right now, even something as minor as breaking social distancing laws, may result in your being rejected for a Covid-19 government loan. The loan application for small business owners require you to certify you are not currently charged with a crime, on probation or parole.
If you have been accused of any crime related to the coronavirus, including breaking social distancing laws, please call a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050.
Image by Klaus Hausman