A majority of states have issued stay-at-home orders amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. But how are they planning to enforce the orders?
In the tri-state area, some states have been more direct than others in their directions to law enforcement.
In Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee ordered residents to stay home except for essential activities on April 2. He left it up to local law enforcement to enforce the mandate, which does not repeal municipal orders, however they see fit.
"We think that's the best way for it [to be] handled. Different communities are different," Lee said at the time the order was issued, adding that he expects to see enforcement if there is no compliance.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a shelter-in-place order on April 2 that replaces all local orders.
Kemp's office was more specific and warned that, if a person is not sheltering in place and none of the four exceptions — essential services, minimum basic operations, critical infrastructure or necessary travel — applies to the activity, "you will receive a warning from law enforcement and risk facing criminal charges if you fail to comply."
The Georgia State Patrol and Georgia National Guard are among the agencies to provide resources to enforce the order. Violations are misdemeanors and officials are "supposed to take reasonable steps" before arresting anyone or writing a ticket.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris' April 3 order is more vague and supersedes all previously issued local measures, though local governments could issue more stringent measures as needed, the order states.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshal's office has said individuals knowingly violating the order may receive a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine of up to $500. And if a violation continues, each day is counted as a separate offense that would incur an additional fine.
Some Alabama municipalities have adopted their own ordinances that would allow them to bring those misdemeanor charges into their own local courts, and that could allow them to impose their own penalties for violations. Those penalties could include "fines, imprisonment, hard labor," or a combination of those, according to Marshal's letter of guidance to local municipalities. Alabama law caps the fines at $500 and imprisonment is capped at six months.
Alabama's attorney general's office has established a hotline in order to answer questions about enforcement and compliance of the order in Alabama. The hotline can be reached by calling 1-800-232-8520.
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