The novel coronavirus COVID-19 is sweeping across countries and leaving a trail of disruption. The pandemic has spread to the U.S. and many states are leading the way to protect their citizens. One way that states are doing this is by declaring a shelter in place or stay at home order.

As these are not typical orders, there are naturally several questions that come with them. One of the top questions is if you can get in trouble for breaking a governor’s shelter in place order. Although unlikely, you could actually face criminal charges or get a citation for breaking the shelter in place order.

What is a shelter in place order?

An order to shelter in place or stay at home are essentially the same thing. The key goal is to keep people at home as much as possible. This helps slow the spread of the virus and ensures that medical resources and workers are not overwhelmed or depleted.

The result of staying at home is called flattening the curve. Statistics show that there is a significant difference between taking protective measures and not taking them. The health care system will reach capacity more quickly and will be overwhelmed without taking any protective measures. This means that not everyone who needs care will be able to get care.

One of the major protective measures is staying and sheltering at home. Governors from most states have issued an order that directs their citizens to stay at home. The state makes the rules and each order has different rules and exemptions.

How does Indiana’s shelter in place order work?

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Indiana was reported on March 6th, 2020. The first death in the state due to the disease was confirmed on March 16th. Governor Holcomb issued a shelter in place order that applied to all citizens and visitors in the state that started on March 24th.  This first order was intended to last for two weeks.

The first order was a mandatory directive that told all citizens to shelter at their homes. Restrictions were placed on restaurants and bars. Most employees were asked to work from home unless they were deemed essential. Essential services include grocery stores, pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, public transport, and waste pick-up.

On April 6th, Governor Holcomb extended the timeframe and issued a new order to last for another two weeks that will end on April 20th. At that time, the Governor may extend the order even further if it is needed. The new order is more extensive than the first. It includes more specific definitions of what jobs are essential and how the rules will be enforced.

The main components of the state order include staying at home except for essential travel or work, not gathering in groups or more than 10, and closing restaurants and bars except for carryout or drive-through services. Counties and cities can issue orders too. For example, Indianapolis extended its stay at home order to last until May 1, 2020.

Are people getting arrested for breaking the shelter in place order?

As of April 6th, no citations had been written by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department even though they received over 1,000 coronavirus complaints in the last week. The severity of possible punishment would depend on how you are violating the order.

Police officers have stated that when they receive a complaint the first thing they will do is ask the violators to comply with the order. For example, when an officer observes a group of more than 10 people they will ask them to disperse. If they do not comply, they could face misdemeanor charges. The police also have the power to arrest anyone who is not in compliance with the order. The majority of the police’s response will be complaint-based. They will seek out violators after they have received a tip that a person is not complying with the order.

Enforcement of the order for businesses is the job of the Enforcement Response Team, which was created for the express purpose of enforcing the provisions in the stay at home order. The team is led by the chair of the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and is composed of state law enforcement. The goal of the team is to enforce compliance with health restrictions at local businesses. They have the power to suspend a businesses’ liquor license or deny requests for renewal in the future if they do not comply with the order.