Who would’ve guessed that getting together with a few friends to play cards could result in being charged with a misdemeanor? In Minnesota, that’s exactly what can happen if you are found in violation of the state’s stay-at-home order.
Other cases have made headlines too. From driving while intoxicated to simply driving with an expired license, some Minnesotans are adding charges to other violations simply by leaving their house for purposes deemed “non-essential.”
Now that the stay-at-home order has been extended, it’s important to understand what is expected of Minnesota citizens while the order is in place and what can happen if you are caught in violation.
The New Stay-Home Order
The current extension on Minnesota’s stay-home order doesn’t expire until May 18. It allows people to leave their homes only to travel for essential needs. Essential needs include:
- Caring for friends or family
- Health care
- Outdoor recreation
The order still imposes restrictions on dining at restaurants and going to bars for now. If you are unsure about whether or not the activity you’re participating in qualifies as essential, reach out to your local municipality or call the facility you plan to visit directly. They are all well-informed and trustworthy sources of information.
Why the MN Governor Extended the Original Order
During the COVID-19 pandemic, orders like these are simply meant to buy time. The governor is monitoring the availability of ICU beds, ventilators, and protective equipment alongside the number of new cases in the state.
Extending the stay-home order gives the state time to amass more ICU equipment and space as well as tests so that any Minnesotan who has COVID-19 symptoms can be tested and care for properly and without delay.
Differences from the Original Minnesota Stay-at-Home Order
There are a few differences between this stay-home order and the previous one. Many businesses have been allowed to open, such as nonessential retail. These businesses can now offer curbside pickup and delivery.
To be clear, you still may not go shopping inside these businesses, but you can pick up goods from the comfort of your own car or have them delivered to your home.
MN Officials Still Recommend Face Masks and Coverings
The Minnesota Department of Health and the stay-home order strongly encourage people in the community to wear homemade or manufactured face coverings when they leave their homes and in places where social distancing can be difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores. This is not required but suggested.
Restrictions on Social Gatherings in Minnesota
Minnesotans are also still expected to practice social distancing during this stay-home order. That means you may not host or gather in groups larger than 10 and should try to stay at least six feet apart when together.
Churches and other houses of worship are not yet open to the public.
What Minnesotans Can Expect Next
For now, these restrictions are in place until May 18. It is the governor’s intention to possibly lift some of the restrictions outlined in the order before then, such as easing restrictions on businesses or opening up places of worship.
However, all updates will be dictated by the increase or decrease in positive COVID-19 cases across the state.
Stay-at-Home Order Violations
Willfully violating the Minnesota stay-home order does come with some legal consequences. You can be charged with a misdemeanor that can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.
The stay-home order also includes penalties for businesses if they put their employees in a position to violate the stay-home order. This is punishable by a misdemeanor for the supervisor or business owner, which can be punished by up to a year in prison or a $3,000 fine.
Many people dismiss misdemeanors as minor violations and may not feel that fighting them is necessary. However, it’s important to understand that being cited with a misdemeanor can result in the public record of conviction, which can have an impact on your future prospects.
Deciding Whether You Should Fight Charges
If you think that you weren’t willfully violating the stay-home order and shouldn’t be charged, then you should fight it. The key to successfully fighting COVID-19-related criminal charges is to understand the law relevant to it and have an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process.
It’s the position of the governor that even though some people have been cited with violations under the stay-home order, law enforcement officials should seek to educate the public about the bounds of the order instead of citing them immediately.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is an AV-Preeminent rated criminal and DWI defense attorney based in Minneapolis who is known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge and named a Certified Specialist in Criminal Law by the Minnesota Bar Association. Mr. Keyser is Lead Counsel rated, and he has received recognition for his criminal law work from Avvo, Expertise, Super Lawyers, The National Trial Lawyers, and more.