Can You Be Charged with a Crime in Indiana for Violating Pandemic Rules?
On December 31, 2020, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb issued the 10th continuation of Executive Order 20-50, which details county-based coronavirus measures and restrictions to control the virus’s spread. The new order continues almost all of the restrictions that were previously in place until January 24, 2021.
Among other things, the order limits social gathering sizes to 25 people in high-risk counties (“red counties”) and 75 people in medium-high risk counties (“orange counties”). Local health officials must issue an approval for any larger gatherings. The order also limits indoor sports and extracurricular events to 25 percent capacity in orange counties. In red counties, only parents or guardians are allowed as spectators at indoor sporting events. No crowd restrictions exist for religious services.
The order also continues Indiana’s mask mandate, which requires Hoosiers age eight and up to wear masks in indoor public settings and outdoors when they cannot maintain a distance of 6 feet or greater from others.
Holcomb had lifted many state-wide coronavirus restrictions in September 2020 but reinstated them in November. In the weeks after the loosening of restrictions, Indiana hospitals saw a 200 percent increase in Covid-19 patients, and the average number of Covid-related deaths rose from 10 to 38 persons per day.
Like many of the ones preceding it, the December order does not provide any penalties for violating its restrictions. Holcomb has been hesitant to impose penalties on Hoosiers for restriction violations out of concern for treading on personal freedoms.
Only at the outset of the pandemic were there clear penalties for violating a pandemic restriction. In March 2020, a violation of the governor’s stay at home order was a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail. Later, Holcomb also sought to institute criminal penalties for failing to wear a mask but dropped the plan after some law enforcement officials and conservative legislators pushed back.
Holcomb has strongly urged all Hoosiers to wear masks and follow the restrictions. “Unfortunately, too many of us, and around the country, have let our guards down, and either assumed we wouldn’t get it or if we do, so be it, we’ll get through it,” Holcomb said in November.
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