For the first time in United States history, governors are issuing quarantine orders. The orders vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, the governor issued an executive order requiring certain types of business to close beginning on March 23. Businesses that are not life sustaining, according to the definitions in the order, have to close for a period of time. Our criminal defense attorney Richard Fink explains the closure order and the possible penalties for a violation.
There are multiple penalties that are possible for a business that violates the Pennsylvania business closure order. Although the administrative order classifies violations as a criminal offense, jail time is unlikely. The standard penalty for a business that remains open in violation of the order is a fine. The case goes before a justice of the peace for a summary proceeding. A fine may range from $10-$50. if the person convicted doesn’t pay the fine, then they may be sentenced to jail for up to 30 days. They serve their sentence in the county jail.
In addition to business closure orders, there are also penalties in place for people who violate isolation orders. 35 P.S. Section 521.1 allows law enforcement to impose a fine of $25-$300. Law enforcement has the opportunity to issue citations. If someone is convicted of violating the order, and they don’t pay the fine, they face up to 30 days jail to be served in the county jail.
Guidance from Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf instructs law enforcement officers to consider issuing warnings before they refer cases for official charges. The order says that the governor expects enforcement to be progressive. Law enforcement officers should start by issuing warnings with criminal prosecution available if violations continue. The governor calls on law enforcement to focus their efforts on businesses where people congregate in groups.
The business closure and isolation orders state other kinds of penalties that may be possible for violations. These are laws that are already established that may apply to the present situation. For example, it’s illegal to disobey a lawful order from law enforcement. A person who refuses to obey an order from a government official can be charged with restricting and obstructing an officer. In addition, obstructing the administration of a government function is a violation of 18 P.A. C.S. section 5101.
Isolation and business closure orders have not been done on this large of a scale in recent history. When you’re accused of violating an order, you may have the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. There may be defenses relating to the facts of the case, questions about the meaning of the order and even constitutional defenses that may be applicable to your case. If you’re facing an allegation of wrongdoing, call the Law Offices of Richard Fink for your consultation.