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Can You Be Arrested for Violating Social Distancing Orders?

COVID-19 has created a lot of confusing change in a very short period of time. For those of us living in New York City, the biggest change has been the way that New York City has essentially been shut down in the wake of the PAUSE order. 

“PAUSE” stands for “Policies Assure Uniform Safety for Everyone.” Under this order, businesses that have not been deemed essential must keep 100% of their workforce at home, and requires all non-essential gatherings be cancelled. 

The police are patrolling parks and other gathering spots to ensure people do not gather there. For the most part they’re just encouraging people to move on.

It is mostly business owners who could be arrested for violating the order. Right now doing so is a misdemeanor crime. Recently a New York City bar owner fell afoul of the order, allowing over a dozen people to enter the bar, drink, and gamble there. Yet it was the only arrest, despite police finding over 2,000 other bars open.

It didn’t help that the arrested bar owner didn’t have a license to sell alcohol. 

If police do show up to chase you out of a public place you’re better off complying with their instructions. They can still use a disorderly conduct charge to move you along should they choose.  

If you organize a gathering you would likely receive the same misdemeanor charge even if you do not own a business. While it hasn’t happened in New York yet, New Orleans issued an arrest warrant for a man who issued a funeral reception with a band. 

One could imagine law enforcement taking similar measures in this city with individuals who flout the order. 

On the flip side, New York is also undergoing efforts to get people out of Riker’s Island. It’s more likely offenders will be fined than dragged off to jail. Fines can range up to $500. This is the probable fate of all those other bars.

Right now nobody is eager to fill jails, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take shelter-in-place orders seriously. They protect your life and the lives of others.

As the crisis continues to mount it’s reasonable to expect enforcement orders to mount with them. When that happens you might expect to see more severe consequences for violating the governor’s orders. 

Don’t risk it. Stay inside, stay safe, and save your party-going spirit for a more normal time.

See also: 

Federal Investigators Set COVID-19 Priorities 

Can You Be Charged With Attempting a Crime in New York?