States threatening jail time over coronavirus orders’ violations

Hawaii Gov. David Ige has ordered all state residents except for essential workers to remain at home for over a month due to the coronavirus pandemic — and is threatening jail time for anyone who disobeys.

People who go outside for reasons other than health care, food, picking up education materials, taking care of others, or exercise between March 25 and April 30 can be charged with a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

“The threat of COVID-19 is unprecedented and requires aggressive action,” Ige said in a statement. “I have been in discussions with our county mayors who are developing their own plans to meet the unique needs of their counties. We also agree that a statewide order is necessary for cohesion and consistency.”

Hawaii is not the only state where people can be locked up for violating lockdowns. Alaska considers it a class A misdemeanor to intentionally violate a quarantine or isolation order, with a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. In Mississippi, existing law calls for a maximum punishment of five years behind bars and a $5,000 for “knowingly and willfully” violating a quarantine order.

Michigan recently issued an order for all nonessential workers to stay home, noting that violation is considered a misdemeanor. In that state, misdemeanors carry a punishment of up to a year in jail.

A similar order in California also carries a possible misdemeanor charge and up to a year of jail time. Connecticut, which also issued a stay-at-home order, calls for possible jail time for quarantine violations.

This is on the other end of the spectrum from New Jersey, where quarantine violators face a fine of between $10 and $100. That state has already come down harder, however, on a Lakewood man who allegedly hosted a wedding celebration at his home that violated the state ban on gatherings of more than 50 people. He was charged with maintaining a nuisance, a “disorderly persons offense” which is punishable by up to six months in jail.

In New York, the state hit hardest by coronavirus so far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced lockdown measures that went into place Sunday evening. Businesses that violate the order can be shut down and fined, although there has been no talk of penalties against individuals.


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