Calif. police now charging 'blatant' stay-at-home order violators with misdemeanors
"This move towards limited enforcement addresses those that blatantly put the community at risk by engaging in obvious violations of the Public Health Order."
The Sacramento Bee
SACRAMENTO COUNTY, Calif. — Sacramento County's law enforcement agencies jointly announced Wednesday they would step up enforcement of the state and county orders to stay at home, and begin charging "blatant" violators with misdemeanors that carry a penalty of a fine or possible jail time.
"While education continues to be the primary focus of all agencies when it comes to violations of the health order, law enforcement agencies in Sacramento County will now also take enforcement action on violations of the public health order that clearly put the health and safety of our communities in jeopardy," the news release by the Sacramento Police Department said.
The agencies -- the Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom, Citrus Heights and Galt police departments; the Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, which also operates the Rancho Cordova department; and the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office -- cited multiple instances of scofflaws over the last three weeks in which police have responded to large house parties and sideshows, which are informal and often illegal gatherings of cars and people, involving racing and car stunts.
"It is important for folks to understand that all of Sacramento law enforcement is united in our desire to keep our communities safe, and in our willingness to enforce the order against unreasonable violations," Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said in the prepared remarks.
At least one sideshow over the weekend resulted in a damaged CHP cruiser, and hundreds of people were observed gathered closely in "obvious violation of the public health order," the release said.
"Events like these undermine the efforts of our communities which have worked hard to make a difference in this health crisis," the agencies said. "Because of this, in addition to citing appropriate vehicle code and penal code violations, law enforcement agencies throughout the Sacramento region will begin conducting enforcement on reoccurring or blatant violations of this health order."
Other agencies, including Sacramento County Parks and Fulton-El Camino Parks police, are a part of the countywide effort.
Officer Karl Chan, a spokesman for Sacramento police, said the increased enforcement applies to people who are "completely disregarding the order" by holding big house parties and gatherings inside or out that draw people.
"Education is still the primary goal for small violations," he said.
People in violation of the public health order could potentially be charged with a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of a $50 to $1,000 fine or up to 90 days in jail, officials said.
"We know that the vast majority of our community will continue to comply with the Public Health Order, and an educational approach will still be effective," said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn in the statement. "This move towards limited enforcement addresses those that blatantly put the community at risk by engaging in obvious violations of the Public Health Order."
What other California cities are doing
Agencies across California are cracking down on scofflaws nearly a month after Gov. Gavin Newsom put the stay-at-home orders in place on March 19.
Last week, San Francisco shut down an underground nightclub for violating the public health order after more than 150 people partied there in secret, police said.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Police Chief William Scott said in a statement on Monday that the club was shut down after an investigation showed it violated the city's stay-at-home order.
"The operators of this illegal club senselessly put lives at risk in a time when our city is doing everything within our means to slow the spread of this pandemic and safeguard the health and well-being of the public," Scott said in a statement.
San Francisco Police Department officers were stationed outside the building to stop people from going inside, according to the statement.
On Saturday, officers executed a "secured a civil inspection and abatement warrant" and took DJ equipment, fog machines, gambling machines, two pool tables, liquor, beer cases, bar furniture, and other nightclub items
."This pandemic is deadly serious. People need to treat it that way," Herrera said in the statement. "Education is always the first step, but willfully ignoring health orders is not acceptable. We are going to use every tool at our disposal, including these types of warrants, to protect public health during this pandemic."
Los Angeles, meanwhile, has filed criminal charges against at least 14 businesses for refusing to shut down. Among the business' targeted were a massage parlor, several smoke shops and a car wash, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"If we must, we will file prosecutions," City Attorney Mike Feuer said Tuesday. "We have to achieve voluntary compliance. We have achieved voluntary compliance in more than 200 cases."