Stay at home enforcement procedures explained
Article by Titus Mohler and Crystal Vandegrift
State and local law enforcement explained how they will be addressing violations of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives.
Executive Order 55 brought the Stay-at- Home Order, and Executive Order 53 included a directive that closed K-12 schools and businesses deemed non-essential, as well as a directive that prohibited all public and private in-person gatherings of 10 or more individuals, among other mandates.
“Governor Northam has directed state and local law enforcement to initially address violations of the following Executive Order 53 and Executive Order 55 directives with education and warnings,” a Virginia State Police (VSP) press release stated. “Persistent violation of these Executive Order (EO) directives can result in individual(s) or business being charged with a class one misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in jail and $2,500 fine.”
The release then listed the EO directives referred to:
• Prohibition of all public and private in-person, indoor and outdoor gatherings of more than 10 individuals — with the exception of the operation of businesses not required to close under EO 53 and the gathering of family members living in the same residence.
• Closure of all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms and farmers markets.
• Any brick-and-mortar retail business (not listed in paragraph five of EO 53) failing to limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment. If any such business cannot adhere to the 10-patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.
• Closure of all public access to recreational and entertainment businesses.
• Closure of public beaches for all activity, except for exercising and fishing.
• Cancellation of in-person classes and instruction at institutions of higher education.
• Cessation of all reservations for overnight stays of less than 14 nights at all privately owned campgrounds.
VSP has been assessing and will continue to assess Virginia EO violations on a case-by-case basis, the release noted.
Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington said his department will be working to enforce the governor’s orders through education, informing people what the orders mean, followed by a warning and then a summons if the situation necessitates one.
He said the department would plan to arrest people only if a given situation escalated or if someone refused to abide by the governor’s orders.
“According to the orders, we shall first summons,” he said.
Ellington noted the department will break up only public groups of 10 or more people as the governor’s orders directed.
Prince Edward County Sheriff L.A. “Tony” Epps stated in a Monday, April 6, press release he feels that for the most part, citizens are taking this pandemic seriously.
“We have gotten a few complaints about a building supply store in the county, but they were found to be practicing social distancing under the governor’s (Executive) Order 53,” Epps stated. “Under this order they are allowed to be open and are not bound by the 10-patron rule. Therefore, they are not in any violation.”
The sheriff’s office release added that some of the churches in the county are having a drive-in-type service in which the pastor conducts the service outside while the people attending remain in their vehicles and listen.
“Sheriff Epps feels that this is a very good idea and a great way to practice social distancing,” officials said in the release.
Ellington affirmed Farmville police will not be conducting road checks to ask where people may be going.
Additionally, each Farmville police officer is issued a personal protective equipment (PPE) kit, he said.
“Unfortunately, depending upon the circumstances, officers may not have time to put on the issued equipment, as an arrest can happen instantaneously,” he said. “They have been advised to use the mask and gloves when at all possible.”
Epps said the sheriff’s office is taking extra precautions when it comes to physical contact, just as everyone should be doing.
“There are times when we don’t have a choice and we have to have physical contact, so we are taking every precaution to keep all involved as safe as possible from the COVID-19 virus,” Epps said.
State troopers, for their personal protection and for the safety of the public, are minimizing their direct contact with the public, the VSP release noted. Additionally, all department recruitment events, public presentations, training, ceremonies, etc. have all been canceled or postponed through June 10.
VSP Public Relations Director Corinne N. Geller stated in the VSP release that state police are required to uphold the laws of the commonwealth and will continue to have a visible presence within communities and on the roads for the safety of those living, working and traveling in Virginia.
However, she made a point to note that the law still requires law enforcement to have reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle.
“Virginia State Police will not be making random traffic stops on vehicles nor conducting checkpoints to determine if a driver is traveling for a permissible reason, as granted by EO 53 and EO 55,” Geller stated in the release.
The release went on to highlight the current governor’s Executive Orders related to COVID-19:
• Do not require an individual to carry documentation related to one’s purpose of travel.
• Do not close Virginia roads/interstates to Virginia residents.
• Do not restrict non-Virginia residents from traveling into and/ or through Virginia.
• Do not prevent Virginians from traveling out of the state. State police do encourage any Virginian(s) traveling out of state to check, in advance, the other state(s) for any travel restrictions in effect for that state(s). Northam has advised Virginians returning from out-of-state and/or international travel to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.