Can You Be Arrested for Breaking Coronavirus or COVID-19 Quarantine Rules or Curfew in Florida?
COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Broward County, with more about 20,000 confirmed cases between Broward, Palm and Miami-Dade Counties as of May 11. The rules for self isolation and quarantine are no joke - in fact, breaking a quarantine in Florida could result in an arrest and a second-degree misdemeanor charge.
With coronavirus rapidly spreading, Fort Lauderdale and Miami Beaches are saw closures and more than 40,000 people in Florida have confirmed positive cases of COVID-19, as of May 11. As of July 9, about 24,000 people have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 due to being infected with the coronavirus. In Broward and Miami-Dade, more than 1,400 people have died from COVID-19 so far. South Florida quickly became the epicenter of the coronavirus in the state of Florida.
To help aid the ever-growing crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 170 Florida National Guard medics were activated in Broward County.
Monday, March 30, Gov. Ron DeSantis Said he expects a near-lockdown in South Florida to last until mid-May, according to NBC 6 South Florida.
Fines and Consequences for Businesses that Don't Observe the Mandated Closures
Certain shops and businesses are opening their doors illegally in order to conduct business and turn a profit during desperate times (with more than 33 million people without jobs and more underemployed), according to the Sun Sentinel.
A Barber in Miramar recently took the risk, and opened his doors for business. He was fined $65 by Miramar officials. Counting it as an expense to continue being in business, he remained open. The man then got fined a second time - but for $165 the second time. Officers threatened to fine all the barbers in his shop, so the man finally gave up and closed his doors again for fear of losing licenses.
The Sun Sentinel also found other non-essential businesses opening their doors to customers - banking on not being caught.
Citations can range from $50 to $500.
Consequences of Breaking a Coronavirus or COVID-19 Quarantine
Ever since Gov. DeSantis issued the stay-at-home order for Florida, breaking the quarantine became a criminal offense in Florida. If you are caught breaking quarantine for non-essential purposes, you could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
The consequences of a second-degree misdemeanor include fines up to $500, up to 60 days in jail and even up to 6 months of probation.
The reality is, the chances of being arrested for something else during quarantine is higher as less people are out and about. For example, the Palm Beach Post reported four people charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for violating the emergency declaration -- the article stated their maximum sentence would be 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. This charge, however, was tacked on to a criminal charges the three men and woman got. The four are facing charges involving drug possession, DUI, theft and lying to police.
While laws vary by state, people who ignore the rules could face fines or jail time according to The New York Times. Arrests could be slightly questionable, as reasonable law enforcement officials should not seek to put others’ health at risk by placing someone with a deadly communicable disease into custody.
“An infected person blatantly ignoring an order might be forced to go into medical isolation — that is, some form of locked hospital ward,” NYT reports.
Risk of Arrest for Breaking Quarantine Rules or Curfew in Florida
Arrests are very much in question for those who don’t self-quarantine, according to local law enforcement.
Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw announced Friday that his office will arrest people who do violate quarantine orders. He warned that for people with an order of confinement from the Florida Department of Health, his office is prepared to enforce the confinement orders if people take them too casually, according to Boca News Now.
There will be trouble for those breaking other rules in place during this time, as well.
Starting Friday, March 27, Miami issued a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew in hopes of helping to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the Miami Herald. "Police would have the ability to stop, question and arrest anyone out in public during this time period," according to the article.
Miami's City Manager, Art Noriega, said the police department will be enforcing the curfew rules nightly. This rule will not apply to the city's homeless population. While the idea isn't for police to just throw people into jail, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said they will be enforcing the curfew.
Masks Required Countywide in South Florida
Wearing masks is now mandated in most of South Florida.
Broward County, Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County all issued orders mandating residents and visitors to cover their faces with a mask (or bandana, scarf, etc.) when shopping in supermarkets or other business, according to Sun Sentinel. People working in businesses are also required to wear masks - the only exceptions are people under 2 years old and people who have trouble breathing.
Miami and Fort Lauderdale (and other cities) also ask people to cover their faces when in public, period. These orders are more request than requirements - officials are asking people to cover their faces anytime they leave the house, but it's not required unless you're inside a business.
Police officers will be enforcing the face mask rule, but will seek to educate before issuing fines, according to Miami's Mayor. If business owners don't enforce the rule, they could face fines or be shut down.
Issues with Breaking Quarantine in Florida...
One of the concerns we have as criminal defense attorneys is: What will happen when people with mental health diagnoses break quarantine?
If someone has a mental health diagnosis or mental handicap or disability of any kind, the chances of an encounter with police not going well are high. The person may be more uncooperative due to not understanding the issue or what is going on. If someone with a mental health diagnosis is confronted for breaking quarantine, it is also likely they may receive other charges such as: resisting an officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, or fleeing or eluding the police.
It would be very easy for a quarantine arrest to escalate quickly if police are not aware of the entire situation.
Consequences for Knowingly Spreading Coronavirus in Florida?
Similarly, people who knowingly spread Coronavirus and put others at risk of contracting COVID-19 may soon face legal trouble.
A traveler who boarded a JetBlue flight to Palm Beach March 11 boarded the flight without notifying anyone of his pending coronavirus test, according to Sun Sentinel.
Bradshaw and other prosecutors confirmed to Sun Sentinel that they’re looking into charging people who knowingly expose others to 2019 Novel Coronavirus. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg said the Florida Legislature may get involved to address situations such as these. In Texas, a teen was charged with a felony for making a terroristic threat for going out in public, claiming she was purposefully spreading the coronavirus.
Besides arrests, other consequences are also imminent and already taking place for those who don’t abide by the isolation and quarantine rules in Florida.
For example, the 70-something man who boarded the flight is now banned from flying on JetBlue in the future.
Rossen Law Firm certainly wishes everyone here in South Florida health as we weather this pandemic together. We’re practicing social distancing, combined with some work remotely. We're still open to serve you if you're facing any DUI charges in South Florida, or any criminal charges - whether related to coronavirus and COVID-19, or not.
The Rossen Law Firm Team
Curious about what could happen if someone intentionally spreads coronavirus or COVID-19? Check out our blog: "Coronavirus Crimes: COVID-19 spread intentionally could land you behind bars or in a lawsuit in Florida" to learn more.
"FLORIDA MAN" and the coronavirus - check out our blog: Coronavirus Crime Chronicles: What you'd only expect from the "Florida Man"
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