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Can I be punished for leaving my house during the Stay at Home Order?

On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20 “Directing Minnesotans to Stay at Home”. The Order was, of course, issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Walz utilized the powers conferred upon him in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 12.

The Order takes effect Friday, March 27, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. and ends Friday, April 10, 2020 at 5 p.m. The Order states “all persons currently living within the State of Minnesota are ordered to stay at home or in their place of residence except to engage in the Activities and Critical Sector work set forth below in Paragraphs 5 and 6.” The Activities and Critical Sector work listed in Paragraphs 5 and 6 are quite extensive. You can review the full text of the Order here. Some examples of allowable activities under the Order are obtaining medical services, grocery shopping, walking, running, biking, fishing, driving for pleasure, and many others. A person still needs to follow the guidelines set forth by the Minnesota Department of Health (including, but not limited to social distancing) while participating in the allowed activities.

Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 12.45, a person who willfully violates this Order is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction of the offense the person “must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000, or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.” However, we do not know how this Order will be enforced. A police officer would not be justified to stop you while you are driving, because you are allowed to be on the roads for the Activities and Critical Sector work listed in the Order. A citation could be issued if people were participating in non-exempt Activities, such as having a house party.

At Rinke Noonan we have experienced criminal defense attorneys up-to-date on all things criminal defense, including the potential citations for violating the Governor’s Emergency Executive Orders. Please contact us if you have any questions. We would be happy to assist you.