Proven Trial Attorney
Handling The Toughest Cases

Violating a Stay-at-Home Order Could Result in a Misdemeanor Charge

On Behalf of | Mar 21, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Beginning today, Saturday, March 21, through Tuesday, April 7, Illinois residents must comply with a stay-at-home order. Governor Pritzker issued the order in response to a rise in COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases around the state in the 24 hours preceding the announcement. Law enforcement considers failure to honor the order as a violation of the Illinois Public Health Act, which could result in a Class A Misdemeanor charge. Another possible charge is reckless misconduct, also a Class A Misdemeanor. If you or someone you know is charged with violating a stay-at-home order, contact criminal defense attorney Richard Fenbert at 630-917-2051 for a free consultation.

What is a stay-at-home order?
Basically, these orders are meant to prevent a disease like COVID-19 from spreading. Other states like California and New York are announcing similar orders. The Illinois order states all residents must “stay home as much as possible, aside from meeting their basic needs.” It goes on to include the following mandates:

  • Residents can only leave their homes for essential activities.
  • Residents leaving their homes must keep at least six feet between themselves and other people at all times.
  • All non-essential businesses are required to shut down their physical locations until the order is over.
  • All public and private gatherings are prohibited (families living in one house are excluded from this).
  • Only essential travel is allowed.

Defining “essential”
The word “essential” is arguably the most important part of the entire stay-at-home order. Fundamentally, it means absolutely necessary or extremely important. A misdemeanor charge for violating the order could hang on this word. Why? Because the prosecution has to prove the defendant’s activities were not essential and the defense has to prove they were.

Here’s a very general overview of what the order considers essential:

  • Visiting a grocery store, pharmacy, medical care provider’s office, or veterinary clinic
  • Outdoor exercise (as long as one maintains social distancing)
  • Businesses like auto repair shops, banks, gas stations, and grocery stores are allowed to remain open
  • Travel required by law enforcement or a court order
  • First responders are totally exempt from this order while performing duties

Punishment for violation
Again, this development is not criminalizing leaving the house or being out in public. However, it is criminalizing violating the explicit terms set forth in the stay-at-home order. Since the order falls under Section 2(k) of the Illinois Public Health Act, violating it could lead to a Class A Misdemeanor charge.

Section 2(k) also states knowingly spreading false information or reporting phony cases of a “dangerously contagious or infectious disease” counts as a violation of the act.

Class A Misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or a combination of the two.

If you or someone you know is charged with violating a shelter-in-place order or any aspect of the Illinois Public Health Act, contact Richard at Fenbert and Associates for a free consultation.