Can I Be Arrested if I Violate California's "Stay At Home Order?"

On March 19th, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a “Stay at Home Order” to all residents of the state. While the order was issued to help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and prevent the state healthcare system from being overwhelmed, the idea of being forced to essentially lock yourself in your home during a pandemic has people concerned about their legal rights during this time. For one, can police arrest you if you leave your home? What is the definition of “nonessential” services according to the order? Below, our experienced criminal defense attorneys answer the common questions we are hearing about what you can and can’t do under the Governor’s Stay at Home Order.

FAQ: COVID-19 Stay At Home Order

Question #1: Can I be arrested if I violate the Stay At Home Order?

A: The order issued by Governor Newsom is mandatory for all residents. This means it is legally enforceable as a misdemeanor, and you can be arrested by law enforcement or fined for violating the order.

Question #2: What is considered an “essential service” under the Stay At Home Order?

A: According to the order, residents can leave their homes only to go out for essential services. Essential services include:

  • Places that Sell or Produce Food: This includes farmers’ markets, convenience stores, grocery stores, pet supply stores, and stores that sell products necessary for maintaining the safety and sanitation of homes. You can go to a restaurant too, but only for delivery, drive-through, or carry out.
  • Medical Services: This includes nursing homes, home-based care, and other types of residential facilities and shelters for seniors, adults, people with disabilities, and children. Home-based care for seniors, adults, people with disabilities, or children can also be visited during this time. Cannabis dispensaries will also remain open to the public.
  • Core Life Services: This includes gas stations, mechanics, automobile dealerships, hardware stores, banks and credit unions, laundromats and dry cleaners, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, custodial services, handyman services, funeral home services, and businesses that supply people who work from home and other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate. Airlines, rideshares, taxis, and other transportation providers can still be used.

Question #3: Can I leave my home to visit neighbors?

A: According to the Governor, “You can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog." So yes, you can leave your home, as long as you avoid being close to others. So if you need to take your dog to the veterinarian or see a physician because you feel ill, you still have the right to do so without facing a penalty.

Question #4: Can I host a party at my house during the lockdown?

A: Gatherings of 10 or more people have been banned. If you do have a gathering, you must adhere to the following:

  • People in attendance for more than 10 minutes must be separated by at least 6 feet of space between other attendees.
  • Organizers have to provide access to hand-washing facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • A sign must be posted that informs people to leave the premises if they are sick and have symptoms like a fever or cough.
  • The site of the gathering must be cleaned and disinfected.

Know Your Rights During this Time, Speak to an Experienced Lawyer Today

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our legal team understands that these uncertain times can be frightening if you aren’t sure about your legal rights. And while the government continues to take sweeping actions to curb the spread of the coronavirus, more of our individual liberties will likely be temporarily halted in the name of serving the greater community.

However, we also anticipate that the new Stay At Home Order will result in law enforcement arresting vulnerable populations as more legal restrictions are put in place to respond to the health crisis. If your civil liberties have been violated or you are arrested for a crime during this time, know that our legal team is still here, and we are prepared to use our extensive resources and knowledge of the law to fight and protect your rights.

Give us a call at (800) 462-7160 to request your case consultation with a lawyer at our firm.