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What Happens if I Violate the Stay at Home Order?

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April 30, 2020 Practice News

In Colorado, Governor Jared Polis has rolled out the next phase of the state’s COVID-19 response. This new phase, known as “Safer at Home”, is an attempt to reopen some of those businesses deemed non-essential while maintaining social distancing and limiting the scope of the way businesses can operate. Although statewide Stay at Home order expires on April 30th, some densely populated municipalities have extended the guidelines of the Governor’s Stay at Home order until May 8th. As it stands, the Stay at Home orders have been extended until May 8th in the following counties: Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Gilpin, and Jefferson.

Many Coloradans will be returning to work and resuming day-to-day life, albeit not in a manner that would resemble the pre-COVID society we all remember. On May 1st, retailers will be permitted to have a limited number of customers in their stores as long as proper social distancing is maintained and employees wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves and masks. May 1st will also mark the ability for businesses such as salons, personal trainers, tattoo shops, and many other one-on-one services to operate, but with strict guidelines including PPE and limiting customer occupancy to no more than 50%. Medical and dental offices will also be allowed to open for elective procedures. Beginning May 4th, all offices are allowed to re-open at 50% workforce, with encouragement to continue to allow employees to telecommute as much as possible.

While all of this may seem very confusing and exciting, many of us are probably wondering – what can happen if I or any of my fellow Coloradans violate the guidelines set out by our state and local officials? There have been a small amount of arrests associated with violations of the stay-at-home order across the country, including a highly publicized incident in Brighton, Colorado in April; but overall, this has been the exception and not the rule. While the orders outline what steps law enforcement and public health officials can do to enforce these orders, it will ultimately come down to the discretion of police officers, county and district attorneys, and judges on how enforcement will be administered.

These officials have the power bring civil or criminal action against any entity or citizen that violates these orders, although the state is recommending that law enforcement and public health officials first reach out to a violator and attempt to get voluntary compliance. However, should it escalate, not abiding by executive or public health orders is illegal and as such can result in a fine of up to $1,000.00 or even imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year.

The best way to avoid any of this is to simply follow the guidelines. Limit travel outside of your home to essential trips. Wear your PPE and maintain proper social distancing. Keep up to date on any potential extensions of these public health orders so as to not be caught unaware. And most importantly – keep taking care of one another by doing your part to flatten the curve. We are all in this together.