The potentially deadly coronavirus is causing panic around the globe and, unfortunately, when people panic, it’s common for them to do things that are not just unwise, but also illegal. In the wake of the coronavirus, it’s a good idea to review some of the many laws that people have broken during the pandemic, including breaking quarantine, exposing someone to coronavirus, committing fraud and looting.
Breaking Coronavirus Quarantine
Under California law, a state health officer can place someone they believe to be exposed to a communicable disease under quarantine. If someone breaks quarantine, they can be charged with a misdemeanor, subjected to probation and be forced to stay under quarantine through the remaining prescribed time. A family in St. Louis that had been exposed to coronavirus recently broke quarantine to go to a school dance, which not only angered people around the globe, but also opened them up to misdemeanor charges.
Exposing Someone to Coronavirus
If someone actually knows or suspects they have the disease, they are expected to self-quarantine or visit a hospital. Anyone who believes they may have coronavirus but continues to go out in public or invites unexposed guests to their home, will be opening others up to the disease. By exposing someone to coronavirus, they are guilty of knowingly exposing another to an infectious disease, even if no one actually contracts the disease due to this contact. This is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1000 fine.
Looting During an Emergency
As California has declared itself to be in a state of emergency, certain thefts could be considered looting. For example, if you broke into a store and stole toilet paper or hand sanitizer (which many cities are going through shortages of), you could face looting charges. Looting is similar to other theft charges only this crime carries mandatory minimum sentences, so, for example, looting that would normally be petty theft carries a minimum of 90 days in jail. Fortunately, your defense lawyer can have these minimums waved in many cases, leaving you with a shorter sentence.
Fraud Related to the Coronavirus
Unfortunately, these types of situations result in a lot fraud charges. In some cases this is done through charity fraud, where people pretend to raise money for victims, or and in other cases, people sell fraudulent cures to the disease. In one case in New Jersey, the owner of a 7-Eleven is being charged with fraud and child endangerment after selling hand sanitizer she tampered with that left four children with chemical burns.
Your Rights to Due Process
As civil liberties suffer during states of emergency, due process rights rarely prevail in the courts under these circumstances. In fact, San Diego County just announced the closure of its courts effective March 17. This temporary shut down will last until April 6, so your case will not heard until at least that date if you were arrested and do not post bail.
The good news is that most people charged with misdemeanors will not be put in jail during this period and those already in jail are being released 30 days early to reduce the population and help prevent the spread of the disease among those in custody.
During emergencies, it’s important to remember to be calm and act rationally. Failure to do so could leave you in legal hot water. If you find you need the help of a criminal lawyer in Vista, Peter M. Liss can help. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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