In our continuing coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, we’ve talked about a number of crimes related to the coronavirus, including intentionally infecting others with a disease, breaking quarantine, looting and fraud. But as people have become increasingly worried about the risk of infection, we’re seeing new and sometimes unexpected crimes being committed as a result of this emergency.
Experts are advising President Trump and others to avoid using the name the “Chinese virus” or the “Chinese coronavirus,” because it can translate to fear and anger against people of Asian descent. Their concerns aren’t unfounded and, in fact, hate crimes against Asian Americans have been on the rise since the coronavirus outbreak.
Hate crimes have also been on the rise against people of Jewish descent due to conspiracy theorists claiming that they helped engineer and spread the disease to gain control over world governments.
When it comes to fighting hate crimes related to the coronavirus, the two best defenses are 1) arguing that you did not target the victim based on his or her race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc., or 2) fight the original charge the hate crime was related to because as a crime “enhancement,” if you aren’t guilty of the original crime, you can’t be found guilty of a hate crime. It’s important to talk to your criminal lawyer before deciding on the right defense because attempting to use one defense might hurt another defense that would have actually been better in your situation.
Threatening People Who May Be Infected
In one of the most surprising crimes related to the coronavirus, a man in Georgia pointed a gun at two women wearing masks and gloves in public because he was so scared that they may be infected with the virus. He was charged with pulling a gun on another person. While his apparent temporary insanity wouldn’t serve as a true defense, it could help his lawyer argue for minimal sentencing.
While it’s lucky that no one was injured in this case, it’s worth knowing that if someone in a similar situation actually killed someone because they truly believed their life was in danger due to exposure to the coronavirus, their attorneys could turn to the concept of imperfect self defense. This defense states that while a reasonable person wouldn’t believe their life was in danger, the defendant did truly believe that only deadly force would help save their life. This doesn’t clear the suspect of the charge, but can reduce murder charges to voluntary manslaughter charges, drastically reducing the sentence someone may face.
Wrongful DUI Charges
It’s also possible people who actually have the coronavirus might be charged with DUI if they are pulled over. Obviously anyone infected should stay at home as much as possible, but if while driving yourself to a doctor’s office or hospital you demonstrated some of the driving behaviors that often indicate someone has been driving drunk, you might get pulled over. If an officer believes you are drunk and has you perform a breathalyzer test, having a high fever could result in your failing the test.
While ordinarily, telling a police officer you have a fever might not help keep you from getting arrested for drunk driving, because everyone is on high alert due to the coronavirus, telling the officer you have a high fever and worry you might be infected may be enough to have him let you continue on to your destination.
Emergency Reckless Driving
On a related note, if you are pulled over for reckless driving when driving yourself or someone else to the hospital due to a coronavirus related emergency, a real emergency is an absolute defense to this crime. The necessity defense, however, does require you have no reasonably available alternative. So, if you could have used Uber or found another driver, it wouldn’t be a valid necessity defense.
If you have been accused of these offenses or any other crimes related to the coronavirus, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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