Review: Arrests made for COVID-19 violations in Florida, Illinois
Local law enforcement in Florida and Illinois have arrested individuals for endangering others during the outbreak.
- A pastor of a Tampa Bay-area megachurch was arrested and jailed by the local sheriff for holding two large live Sunday services at his church. Accused of “reckless disregard for public safety,” the pastor has been charged with unlawful assembly and violation of the county’s stay-at-home order, which prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people. This action came after county officials late last week warned the church that holding live services would be creating a dangerous environment for church members and the community. Under Florida law, violations of the local stay-at-home order may be charged as a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail, a $500 fine, or both.
- An Illinois man who had posted on social media that he was suffering from COVID-19-like symptoms was arrested and charged by the local prosecutor for reckless conduct (“willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others”) after he later stopped at a busy local gas station/convenience store and was recognized and reported by a former school mate who had seen the earlier post. Unlike the Florida case above, the charges were not for violating the state’s shelter-at-home order. This action is similar to the kinds of prosecutions that have previously taken place when HIV+ individuals have been charged for endangering others by their personal behavior. It is unlikely, and very impractical, to attempt to enforce large-scale mitigation efforts through criminal prosecutions, and while the individual was causing increased risk to others, prosecution seems driven at least as much by public fear as it might be an attempt to mitigate the disease spread.