Earlier this morning, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an Order requiring all persons in Michigan to stay at home to combat the spread of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. The Order goes into effect at 12:00 a.m. on March 24, 2020, and lasts until at least April 13, 2020.
Although the effectiveness of this Order on the spread of the disease remains to be seen, one thing is certain – if you fail to comply and do not remain at home (unless you fall into a stated exception), you could be prosecuted and convicted of a misdemeanor. Although less serious than a felony, a misdemeanor is a crime. Where the penalty is not specified, as is the case in the Governor’s “Stay at Home” Order, persons convicted of violating the Order could be sentenced to 90 days in jail and/or a $500.00 fine.
The Governor’s Order contains numerous exceptions. Everyone in Michigan should carefully examine the actual order, which can be found on-line. https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98158-522625–,00.html. The violation and misdemeanor provisions are at the very end. They should be taken seriously.
Since we are in uncharted waters, there is a great deal of uncertainty. For example, no one knows how aggressively law enforcement will pursue those allegedly in violation of the Order. If the police issue tickets, no one knows whether prosecutors will insist on criminal convictions, or whether they will offer pleas to civil infractions, which are not crimes. No one knows whether the enforcement policy of a particular agency will change over time. Will law enforcement tolerate minor violations? Will what is currently tolerated be tolerated tomorrow, next week, or two weeks from now?
If pursued as criminal offenses in court, no one knows how judges will react to violators at sentencing. Will a judge actually sentence someone to jail – whether it is 30, 60, or even 90 days for a violation? Some judges may, while others may not.
Either way, it is critically important that you familiarize yourself with the Order’s requirements. If you do not understand them, you may want to seek professional advice. If you are ticketed as a violator of Governor Whitmer’s “Stay at Home” Order, you absolutely need to consult an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney for assistance.
Here at the Law Office of John Freeman, we are doing our part to protect our client’s freedom and civil liberties during these unprecedented and challenging times. Please contact us if you need help.