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What Happens if I Violate New Jersey's Stay-at-Home Order or Operate a Non-Essential Business?

June 2, 2020 | Posted In Recent News

Under New Jersey’s stay-at-home order, residents are restricted from leaving their homes except for permitted “essential activities.” Businesses deemed “non-essential” have been forced to close as well, and this has led to significant economic hardship throughout the state. As the impacts of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue, some residents may be tempted to violate New Jersey’s stay-at-home order, and some business owners may decide to try to open prematurely as well.

For those that violate New Jersey’s stay-at-home order, what are the consequences?

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has made clear that the potential ramifications will be severe. Recently, he told the New Jersey Law Journal that his office is, “strictly enforcing the Governor’s Executive Orders during this public health emergency, and those who refuse to comply will face serious legal consequences. . . . Those consequences include potential criminal charges ranging from a disorderly persons offense to second-, third- and fourth-degree indictable offenses.”

Potential Penalties for Stay-at-Home Order Violations in New Jersey

Given this proclamation, individuals charged with violating New Jersey’s stay-at-home order can face a broad range of potential penalties. The maximum sentences under New Jersey law for disorderly persons offenses and second-, third- and fourth-degree indictable offenses are as follows:

  • Disorderly persons offense: A $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
  • Fourth-degree indictable offense: A $10,000 fine and 18 months in prison
  • Third-degree indictable offense: A $15,000 fine and three to five years in prison
  • Second-degree indictable offense: A $150,000 fine and five to 10 years in prison

New Jersey Attorney General’s Offices Publishes Daily Updates on COVID-19 Enforcement

The Attorney General’s Office is standing behind Grewal’s statement. On April 17, it began publishing “Daily COVID-19 Enforcement Updates” highlighting the law enforcement efforts undertaken during the novel coronavirus pandemic. These updates include information about serious offenses such as assaults against police officers and other violent offenses, and they include information about stay-at-home order violations as well.

For example, the April 23 Daily COVID-19 Enforcement Update included the following law enforcement activities:

  • “The Newark Police Department’s COVID-19 task force issued 57 summonses for violations of the emergency orders and ordered two non-essential businesses closed in enforcement actions.”
  • Multiple individuals were charged with gathering at a bonfire to consume alcohol in violation of New Jersey’s emergency orders.
  • The owner of a pool hall was charged with operating a non-essential business with customers inside.
  • An individual was charged with trying to visit a person at a group home without an essential purpose while in possession of under 50 grams of marijuana.
  • An individual was charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and violating New Jersey’s stay-at-home order.
  • Multiple individuals were charged with violating New Jersey’s stay-at-home order when they refused to disperse after failing to maintain social distancing and congregating without an essential reason.

Contact Our New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorneys

Our New Jersey criminal defense attorneys provide experienced legal representation for individuals charged with disorderly persons offenses and indictable crimes. If you have been arrested and would like to speak with an attorney, we encourage you to call 877-435-6371 or contact us online for a confidential consultation.

Over 20 attorneys at HCK have extensive criminal defense experience as they were former assistant prosecutors and/or police officers for a combined total of over 600 years of law enforcement experience. You can find out more about them on our website, and you can call Managing Partner Ron Helmer on his cell phone at 609 685-0665.

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Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

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