Review: Arrests made for COVID-19 violations in Florida, Illinois

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.
|2020-04-01T09:30:02-04:00March 31st, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|Comments Off on Review: Arrests made for COVID-19 violations in Florida, Illinois

About the Author: Ross Silverman

Ross Silverman
Ross D. Silverman, JD, MPH, is Professor of Health Policy and Management at Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health and Professor of Public Health and Law at Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He is a member of the IU Centers on Health Policy and Bioethics. His research focuses on public health and medical law, policy, and ethics, and law's impact on health outcomes and vulnerable populations. He also serves as Associate Editor on Legal Epidemiology for Public Health Reports, the official journal of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service. His most recent Covid-19 publications include: "Ensuring Uptake of Vaccines Against SARS-CoV-2" in the New England Journal of Medicine (with MM Mello & SB Omer), and "Covid-19: control measures must be equitable and inclusive" in BMJ (with ZD Berger, NG Evans & AL Phelan)

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