At this point, we all should be aware of Gov. Cooper’s executive order addressing the Coronavirus and certain restrictions he implemented meant to curtail the spread of the virus. There are three main parts to which law enforcement will be looking for in its enforcement of the executive order:
- Mass gatherings
- Operating a business that is non-essential
- Failure to stay home
While this executive order creates potential constitutional issues worthy of debate, this blog is to answer the question of what happens if I violate the order.
First, let’s look at potential consequences. The executive order is enforceable under North Carolina General Statutes 166a-19.30(d) and 14-288.20(a)2. Both of these statutes serve as the criminal statute which enforces lawful executive orders. In both of these statutes, it states that a violation of an executive order is a Class 2 Misdemeanor. There are four classes of misdemeanors in North Carolina, the most serious is an A1 misdemeanor, then it goes, 1, 2, and 3. Class 3 misdemeanors are the least serious misdemeanor we have. So, you can see, while a violation of the order is not a class 3, or even an infraction, it’s also not as serious as a class 1 or A1.
A class 2 misdemeanor can mean as much as 60 days in jail if convicted. However, that is only for individuals with five or more prior criminal convictions. North Carolina has structured sentencing, so based on how many prior convictions you have, the more serious the punishment would be if you were to be convicted. For first offenders, you are likely looking at just a fine. However, of greater concern would be having a criminal record that would show up on background checks.
What Happens When I Violate the Order
Now, what happens if you are found violating the executive order. First and foremost, the reports that seem to be coming out are that police are giving people the opportunity to come into compliance (i.e. disperse if in a group more then 10, head back home if you are not out for an appropriate reason, etc.). Though, I would imagine an officer’s likelihood of allowing someone a pass for an offense would depend on the seriousness of the offense (hosting a “Coronavirus Party” at your bar with 100 in attendance probably will result in citations being issued).
Also, to be considered, is what the DA’s office will do with those charged with this crime. If this is your first offense, it is possible the State may let you participate in some form of a First Offender Program where you may be required to complete community service in order to secure a dismissal. However, given how serious a violation of this executive order would be to the overall public health, they may not be willing to make a First Offender offer, which leaves you with the option of pleading guilty or going to trial.
No matter what could happen, we here at Matheson & Associates recommend you do not violate this order. The Coronavirus is a great pandemic we are living through and there is no reason to risk your safety, or the safety of others by violating the law.