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Can You Be Arrested for Violating COVID-19 Related Orders in Texas?

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It was just a few short months ago when our economy reached unprecedented highs, but now, everything has changed. Suddenly, a record number of Americans are applying for unemployment, school has been canceled, and oil prices have plummeted beyond belief.

What happened? The coronavirus pandemic, and the government’s response to it, seems to have thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans. The great state of Texas is currently under a state of emergency, and the governor has issued a stay-at-home order for all Texans.

What exactly is a stay-at-home order, and what does it mean for you as a citizen? Can you get arrested for going out in public? Does the government even have the authority to restrict your movement during this time? Learn everything you need to know about violating a shelter-in-place order and your rights during a crisis below.

Are you facing charges for violating quarantine? Attorney Brett Podolsky can help »

What is a Stay-At-Home Order?

Governor Greg Abbott has been reluctant to call his executive order a stay-at-home order, but that is essentially what it is. According to the order, Texans must stay at home unless they must travel for essential reasons. Essential travel includes:

  • Going to the grocery store
  • Traveling to work if you are an essential employee
  • Making journeys to pick up medication
  • Going to the doctor’s office

This order expired on April 30th. Currently, Governor Abbott’s plan to re-open Texas is already in the first phase. As of May 1st, retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, and other community services are allowed to open to 25% of their listed capacity. Can you still be arrested for violating this order?

Am I Obligated to Comply with COVID-19 Related Orders in Texas?

The law in the United States is set up in such a way that a citizen’s rights are balanced with the power of government. When an emergency situation happens, though, the government’s powers can supersede the rights of individual citizens.

Every state governor (and the president of the United States) has the power to issue an executive order. This power is given to state governors in state constitutions, and it’s given to the president in the Constitution of the U.S. When a governor utilizes his power to implement an executive order, they’re able to take on emergency powers that are greater than the powers they typically have. These powers are put into play to help the state and its citizens prepare for emergencies.

As is clear from the state of the world, COVID-19 constitutes a global health emergency.

In short, Governor Abbott has the authority to make you stay at home during this pandemic. If you fail to comply with the order, then you could get arrested! Violators in Texas are subject to spend 180 days in jail and pay fines up to $1,000.

Are People Getting Arrested for Violating Quarantine?

Do you think it’s a major government overreach to get arrested for leaving your home? If so, then you’re likely wondering – are Texans really getting arrested for violating the current stay-at-home order?

When a governor issues an executive order, it’s up to local law enforcement agencies to uphold that order. That means the police can and will arrest you if you are blatantly refusing to comply. Despite this authority, most Texas police agencies are limiting arrests during this time. They’re putting their focus on issuing warnings and citations to those who are caught violating the order. They are, however, arresting people who continue to violate the order after being warned repeatedly. They’re also arresting individuals who are intentionally spreading the virus.

Here are a few notable arrests you should know about:

  • A woman in a Nederland Apartment complex was arrested after testing positive and failing to quarantine herself
  • Lorraine Maradiaga was arrested for making a terroristic threat after threatening to intentionally spread the virus
  • Two Texans were arrested for offering beauty services out of their home

Texas isn’t the only state making arrests, either. There have been several arrests that have made national headlines over the past few weeks. Most individuals who have been taken into police custody are refusing to comply after being given multiple chances to simply obey the stay at home order.

How Long will the Coronavirus Pandemic Last?

It remains unclear how long the Coronavirus pandemic will last. The World Health Organization thinks the pandemic “will be with us for a long time.” On the other side of the spectrum, there are medical professionals who think COVID-19 doesn’t warrant the extreme measures being taken by governments across the world. President Donald Trump appears to agree with a lot of these experts, and he’s ready to start slowly re-opening America for business.

With these facts in mind, it’s important to understand that no one knows what the global impact of the coronavirus will be yet. Experts can only make educated guesses about how this new virus spreads and impacts human life. Stay-at-home measures have been put into place with everyone’s health in mind, but they can’t last forever.

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Everything You Need to Know about Violating the Stay-at-Home Order

Were you recently arrested for violating the stay-at-home order? Do you think your charges are unjustified or that your rights were violated? If so, then it’s a good idea to reach out to a criminal defense lawyer who can help you.

If you do get arrested or approached by the police during this time, then it’s advised that you do your best to cooperate with them. In most circumstances, cooperation can prevent an arrest.

The best way to prevent unwanted legal ramifications during this time is to adhere to Governor Abbott’s stay-at-home order. Being forced to stay at home is an extreme measure, but we’re living in extreme times. The governor has the authority to issue and enforce this current order, so your rights are limited at this time. If you have any questions or concerns about your legal rights during quarantine, then our firm is prepared to help. Reach out to our office now to speak with an attorney.

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