Disobeying Emergency Orders During the Coronavirus Outbreak

North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, issued Executive Order No. 138 on May 5, 2020, the first phase in easing restrictions on travel, business operations and mass gatherings. The Order contains the following prevalent sections, detailing the specifics of “Phase One” and its effects on NC residents:

  • Section 1. Definitions
  • Section 2. Allowable Activities for Individuals Outside the Home
  • Section 3. Orders for Businesses and Parks
  • Section 4. Orders for Restricted Business Types
  • Section 5. Orders for Businesses to Remain Closed
  • Section 6. Mass Gathering Prohibited
  • Section 7. Long Term Care
  • Section 8. Local Orders
  • Section 9. Extension of Price Gouging Period
  • Section 10. No Private Right of Action

As detailed above, while the restrictions are beginning to ease in severity, there still remains mandated restrictions that must be followed. Specific situations are excused for a failure to comply with the Order, including: individuals experiencing homelessness, individuals whose homes are or become unsafe, and individuals riding on public transportation. Those individuals who fall within one of the above mention specific situations must still comply with Recommendations to Promote Social Distancing and Reduce Transmission to the greatest extent possible.

Continue to Practice Safety Measures

In addition, individuals leaving their residence for Allowable Activities are encouraged to continue to practice the following safety measures:

  • Practice social distancing, remaining at least six feet apart from other individuals;
  • Wearing a protective face mask when leaving home and at all times in a public setting;
  • Carry hand sanitizer and use it frequently;
  • Wash hands using soap and water for at least twenty (20) seconds as frequently as possible;
  • Regularly clean high-touch surfaces such as steering wheels, wallets, phones; and
  • If exhibiting any symptoms of illness, stay at home.

Pursuant to Governor Cooper’s Executive Order, the provisions contained therein are to be enforced by state and local law enforcement officers under N.C. Gen. Stat.§ 166A-19.30(a)(2). A violation of this Executive Order may be subject to prosecution and is punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor. As such, if found guilty, residents can face up to 60 days in jail and can be fined up to $1,000.

While some civil liberties are certainly limited by this Order, they are not gone. North Carolina’s Emergency Management Act, while permitting municipalities and counties to enact ordinances to deal with states of emergency, is still subject to checks and balances. For example, the Government’s use of police powers is subject to judicial review, public opinion, and must be deemed necessary for the preservation of order.

Enforcement of NC Emergency Executive Order in Mecklenburg County

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) Chief Kerr Putney addressed the city of Charlotte in a press release concerning the enforcement of the NC Emergency Order. Chief Putney explained that CMPD will not actively follow residents around and question them on their whereabouts. The department stated:

“The CMPD will manage the order through voluntary compliance, education, dialogue and cooperation from community members. Enforcement actions will be leveraged as a last resort if we reach a point that we are not successful in attaining community cooperation.”

CMPD further explained that the department does not plan to set up checkpoints on highways or local roads, unless proven absolutely necessary. The Charlotte Observer reported that Deputy Chief Estes, in a video released by CMPD stated:

“Officers will not be proactively stopping motorists or people to ask where they’re going, what their plans are, where they have been, or where they work.”

When asked how CMPD will know whether or not residents are complying with the order, the department explained that enforcement will be complaint driven, meaning that residents should notify law enforcement if they see people violating the Emergency Order. CMPD stresses that the purpose of this Order is to protect the community and strongly encourages Charlotte residents to comply with the order for both their personal safety and the safety of the greater Charlotte community.

Mecklenburg County has implemented a helpline to answer and address any questions or concerns pertaining to the Order and its enforcement: 704.353.1926.

How Long is the Order in Effect?

Governor Cooper’s Phase One Executive Order went into effect at the end of businesses on May 8. Section 7 of the Order titled ‘Long Term Care,’ shall remain in effect unless repealed, replaced, or rescinded by another applicable Executive Order indefinitely. The remainder of the Order, unless repealed, replaced, or rescinded by another applicable Executive Order, shall remain in effect through the end of business on May 22, 2020.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been unjustly affected by North Carolina’s Emergency Executive Order, contact our experienced attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to receive a case review. Call our office at (704) 370-2828 to evaluate your options or fill out our contact form. Now taking cases throughout North Carolina with offices in Uptown Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe.