New Jersey is close to the center of the global coronavirus pandemic, a fact that already has legal consequences. State officials enacted sweeping limits on movements and business activities in New Jersey. On March 21, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order (Executive Order No. 107) that instituted a statewide “stay at home order.”
Like many of us, you may not be entirely sure of what you’re allowed to do and what is considered a violation of the new rules. Of course, public safety and your health are incredibly important. But so are your rights.
If you’ve been accused of breaking quarantine rules in New Jersey, The Law Office of Jason A. Volet is ready to defend you. Mr. Volet’s years of experience in New Jersey courts have prepared him to help you in this crisis. Call today for a free consultation.
What Are the Current New Jersey State Orders Regarding COVID-19?
As of March 21, all public gatherings are banned and many businesses are required to close. Essential services, including healthcare facilities, grocery stores, restaurants (takeout and delivery only), pharmacies, gas stations, pet stores, liquor stores, laundromats, among others, are allowed to remain open. You’re required to wear a mask and keep six feet away from other people when inside any business.
The order also requires operating businesses, even essential ones, to facilitate remote work-from-home arrangements as much as possible. New Jersey residents must stay home at all times. Under the order, the only exceptions to this are “obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities.”
What Are the Penalties for Not Following Quarantine Rules?
It’s a good idea to follow the stay at home orders and social distancing guidelines, for your health and safety and that of your family, as well as to avoid serious legal penalties.
Violating coronavirus restrictions in New Jersey can result in criminal charges, fines, and even jailtime. Depending on the circumstances, you may be charged with a disorderly persons charge, which could cost you a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
As some people in New Jersey have discovered, you may face additional charges in specific circumstances. For example, if there are children present, you could be accused of child endangerment. Acting belligerently or fleeing could result in a charge of resisting arrest.
If you are accused of illegally gathering or conducting business, you should cooperate with authorities so that they don’t accuse you of anything else.
Are There Exceptions to the Quarantine Rules in New Jersey?
Governor Murphy’s executive order does allow you to leave the house for specific reasons. Some of these are obvious. If you work at a hospital, grocery store, or other essential service, you can go to work. You can also run essential errands, like shopping for the food or home improvement supplies you need.
Some of the exceptions are a bit more surprising. You can exercise outside, and engage in “outdoor activities” like hiking. Playing team sports, however, would fall under the ban. The order also says that you can “visit family or close friends.” Since this provision is so vague, you may be tempted to throw a party for all of your “close friends.” Be careful, because gatherings of any size are still prohibited and you and your friends could face disorderly person charges.
How Long Will the Quarantine Stay in Effect?
As of April 2020, officials have not designated an official end date for New Jersey’s quarantine.
Governor Murphy is working with several other regional leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York and Governor Ned Lemont of Connecticut. They will coordinate their efforts to reopen the states so that the region lifts restrictions in concert.
New Jersey residents can expect the quarantine to continue through May 2020. If Covid-19 cases drop significantly, Murphy will loosen the requirements. Check official New Jersey state announcements to confirm any changes before you break quarantine.
Can I Get in Trouble If I Cough on Another Person During Quarantine?
Recently, a few New Jersey residents have purposefully coughed on members of the public and police officers. One woman told police that she was COVID-19 positive. As a consequence, she was charged with making a terroristic threat during an emergency, aggravated assault on an officer, and several other crimes.
Needless to say, these charges should be reserved for people behaving aggressively on purpose. You should not be charged with a crime just for coughing. If you are accused with reckless endangerment, or some other crime as a result of coughing in public, you have the right to mount a legal defense. The Law Office of Jason A. Volet can help you defend your rights.
What Should I Do If I Am Caught Violating the Quarantine Rules?
If you’re running an essential errand, exercising, or visiting family, remember that you’re not actually violating New Jersey’s stay-at-home order. Stay calm and explain your situation.
The police officer may be in the wrong. If so, you’ve got good reason to contact a talented criminal defense lawyer, like Jason. A. Volet. He is ready to mount a defense on your behalf that lays out exactly why you’re not guilty.
If, after explaining why you’re out and about, a police officer arrests you, remember you have the right to remain silent. You can be polite and identify yourself, but you don’t need to self-incriminate by talking about every detail of your day.
Never respond to an arrest or police officer’s accusation by arguing. The police may add an additional charge if they think you’re resisting arrest or are drunk and disorderly. The best way to fight your charge is to hire an experienced criminal attorney to defend you.
Contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet for a Free Consultation
During these uncertain times, it natural to be stressed, confused, and frustrated. These emotions can cause normal people to unexpectedly or unintentionally violate the stay-at-home orders and find themselves in trouble with the law. If this has happened to you or someone close to you, don’t hesitate to contact The Law Office of Jason A. Volet to discuss your rights and options.
Our experienced attorneys will be ready to schedule a free, remote consultation. It’s absolutely confidential, and we’ll do everything in our power to minimize the impact this charge will have on your life and livelihood. Call us or schedule your free consultation online today.
Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a criminal trial attorney, Jason A. Volet focuses his practice exclusively on criminal and municipal defense in New Jersey and New York. He earned his B.A. in political science from Rutgers College in 1995 and his J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law in 1998. Mr. Volet began his career in the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, where he gained extensive experience prosecuting both juvenile and adult offenders. Now, as a criminal defense attorney, he uses that experience to fight for the rights of individuals who have been charged with a crime.