Skip to Content

Can You Face Criminal Charges While We Are Under a Coronavirus Emergency Order?

December 18, 2020 Criminal Law and Procedure

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has been issuing orders concerning public gatherings and face masks since the beginning of the pandemic. The orders go into effect for a limited time, with the most recent being effective as of December 9th and to remain in effect through December 20th. However, we expect subsequent orders that are substantively identical to be implemented so long as the pandemic continues. 

Many people are unaware that these orders are enforceable by the police and that failure to comply can result in criminal charges. If you have questions concerning the order and how it may apply to you or have been charged with a violation, an Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate these issues. 

What the Emergency Orders Require

The orders essentially do two things: 

  • Limit the size of gatherings both indoors and outdoors
  • Mandate the wearing of face masks by all people attending a gathering

Generally speaking, indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people, while outdoor gatherings are limited to 25. However, there are some variations and exceptions depending on where the gathering is taking place, such as in a residence or a business. Businesses also need to be mindful of limitations related to seating capacity and square footage. 

While the order also requires people to wear masks, it also contains several exceptions. Business owners are responsible for ensuring that all patrons are wearing masks while on the premises. 

What Happens if You Don’t Comply?

If you do not comply, you could potentially face criminal charges. Violation of the order is a misdemeanor charge that carries the following consequences if convicted: 

  • Up to six months in jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $200

Presumably, you could face numerous charges if you commit more than one violation. The order also authorizes a civil fine of up to $1,000 for each violation or each day that a violation continues. 

What to Do if You Have Been Charged

Representatives from the MDHHS have said that charges are reserved only for those who have committed egregious violations or are repeat offenders. Regardless, most people cannot afford to spend any time in jail, and no one wants a criminal conviction on their record, even if it is for a misdemeanor charge. If you’re a business owner, you also have to consider the impact it may have on your reputation. 

If you’ve been charged with violating the pandemic order, an experienced Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer may be able to help you get your charges dismissed. A lawyer can also provide valuable guidance to business owners and others to help you comply with current restrictions.

Questions About Criminal Charges During the Pandemic? Contact an Ann Arbor Criminal Defense Lawyer

Ann Arbor criminal defense lawyer Sam Bernstein helps his clients avoid criminal charges and convictions by staying ahead of the legal challenges you may face. If you’ve been charged or are worried about getting charged with a crime during the pandemic, call us today at 703-883-9584 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.