As of August 9, 2020, there are 533,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida — 37,018 of which are in Palm Beach County. Since March, the governor has issued several executive orders for the adoption of measures that will limit the spread of the virus among the community. Palm Beach County has also implemented rules for further protection. From closing down restaurants and gyms to mandating the use of masks in Palm Beach County, it can be confusing to know what you are required to do and what it is suggested you do to stay safe.
You might also not realize that you may be subject to penalties for violating certain emergency orders. Unfortunately, to show the severity of the pandemic, Palm Beach County’s sheriff announced that his office would arrest people violating quarantine. Residents should assume that violating other orders may also lead to consequences. Although the number of arrests has been minimal, you should seek legal counsel if you are charged with a criminal offense for violating a COVID-19 order.
Businesses Face Penalties for Violating Mandated Closures
When the quarantine was in full swing in March, non-essential businesses such as gyms, salons, clothing stores, bars, and movie theaters closed up shop. Yet, some business owners ignored quarantine rules to continue operating during the pandemic.
Citations throughout South Florida vary; however, businesses that fail to comply with restrictions in the governor’s COVID-19 executive order may face fines and license suspensions by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Some Face Misdemeanor Charges for Breaking Quarantine
Since the governor issued a Stay at Home order for Florida, breaking the quarantine became a criminal offense for which individuals could face second-degree misdemeanor charges. The consequences of a second-degree misdemeanor may include:
- Fines of up to $500
- Up to 60 days in jail
- Up to 6 months of probation
Although few people have been arrested for violating quarantine, the fact that fewer people overall were going out in public made it easier for police officers to identify suspicious behavior. The Palm Beach Post reported four people charged with a second-degree misdemeanor for violating the emergency declaration. These charges were added to charges of drug possession, DUI, theft, and lying to police.
Palm Beach County’s Mask Mandate
More recently, Palm Beach County has issued a mask mandate (Emergency Order Number 12) requiring residents and visitors over the age of 2 to cover their faces when out in public and in places where social distancing is not possible. People shopping in supermarkets and other businesses, and employees of these businesses, must cover their faces. The order applies to anyone obtaining a good or a service, or visiting a business establishment. Anyone who rides the Palm Tran transit service must wear a mask, as well as anyone entering who must enter or work in a government building.
All businesses must verify that their customers are complying with the order. There must be signs outside businesses informing customers of the new mandate. Businesses have a grace period to put up these signs; however, the order has been in place for several months and has since been extended.
Violating the county mask mandate may result in fines. A fine for your first offense is $250, and the maximum penalty is $500. Businesses with liquor licenses could lose them for failing to comply with the mandate.
Unsure of Your Rights During COVID-19? We’re Here to Help
The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel has helped countless people facing criminal penalties in Palm Beach County for more than 30 years. Attorney Brian P. Gabriel is a determined criminal lawyer who staunchly defends individual rights. Contact Brian Gabriel for quality representation if you have been arrested in Palm Beach County during the pandemic. Call 561-622-5575 or complete our contact form for a free consultation.