It has been a little over one month since the governor declared a state of emergency in Maryland due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and multiple executive orders have followed. The most recent order reaffirmed the governor’s decision to close non-essential businesses such as fitness centers, bars, theaters, malls, tanning and hair salons, and recreational establishments such as campgrounds and golf courses. The order also prohibits large gatherings of more than 10 people and essentially requires citizens to stay at home unless they are performing an essential task such as working, shopping for essentials items or taking care of people or pets. This executive order is not a suggestion, and provides criminal sanctions for non-compliance. Police have the authority to arrest and charge anyone who they witness to be in direct violation of the executive order, and it didn’t take long for the first arrests to be reported.
As of yesterday, 14 people had been arrested for violating the executive order, which is a first-degree misdemeanor that carries up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. The actual criminal offense is listed in the section 14-3A-08 of the Maryland Public Safety Code. The public safety code is best known for its laws prohibiting firearm possession by certain individuals, but it also deals with the rarely used Governor’s Health Emergency Powers. A violation of this statue must be knowing and willful, and it cannot be assumed a person was aware of the executive order. While must people have been glued to the news for the past few weeks, the current situation is still being underestimated by some. This probably means that most or all of the individuals who were arrested were warned by police before they were taken into custody.
Based on what we have seen in various news outlets, it seems like most of the arrests stemmed from parties where individuals were violating the provision of the order banning gatherings of more than 10 people. Two Salisbury men were recently arrested under this circumstance, and one was found to have a weapon after being searched incident to arrest. Both were also charged with failure to obey a law enforcement officer, which is a 60-day misdemeanor similar to disorderly conduct. These two individuals are scheduled to appear in Wicomico County District Court on June 5, though it is still up in the air whether court will be in session at that time. As of now, courts are closed to the public until May 4, and all trials scheduled for April will be postponed.
In addition to the 14 arrests, the governor’s office also reported that over 600 warnings were issued. Around 300 were issued at businesses and open public spaces each, 51 were issued at private residences and 12 were issued at places of worship. As the closure of businesses and stay at home orders continue, we will likely see more violations and arrests. The public will eventually become frustrated, and with nice weather just a few weeks away it will become increasing difficult to keep people isolated. The Blog will continue to follow any new developments regarding the governor’s executive orders, and violations related to these orders. The Herbst Firm continues to provide legal consultations during these unique times, and Benjamin is available 7 days a week to discuss your current case or any new charges. Contact Benjamin if you have been charged with a failure to obey or a law enforcement officer, resisting an officer or a violation of the governor’s health emergency executive order anywhere in Maryland. There may be defenses available to you that if argued properly could result in a dismissal of your charges. Benjamin specializes in filing for bail review hearings across the state and to file habeas corpus motions for those individuals who have been denied bail by a district court judge. Call Maryland criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime at 410-207-2598 or send him an email at Benjamin@mdtriallawyer.com.