Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has issued an executive order commanding Hoosiers to self-isolate and stay at home. As we’ve already seen, this order has dozens of exceptions to the stay-at-home rule, but generally speaking, most people aren’t supposed to go out right now. What happens if they do?
Title 10, Article 14, Chapter 3 of the Indiana Code concerns Emergency Management and Disaster Law, and it provides some answers. Section 31 of this chapter basically says that everyone has the obligation not to act the fool: “a person in Indiana shall conduct himself or herself . . . in ways that will reasonably assist and will not unreasonably detract from the ability of the state and the public to successfully meet disaster emergencies.”
Section 34 says that any knowing, intentional, or reckless violation of this chapter is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Realistically, though, this would be a very difficult case for the State to prosecute.
Imagine trying to prove that someone acted in knowing, intentional, or reckless opposition to the governor’s order, independent of all the available exceptions? Now imagine trying to do this if the defendant has embraced their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. The State is facing an uphill battle.
Being able to get away with something, however, is not a good reason to do it. Even if you’re unlikely to be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor for violating the Indiana Code’s chapter on disaster law, there are other good reasons not to pick this particular moment to test society’s limits.
Consider, for example, that an officer who believes he has probable cause to arrest you for violating the stay-at-home order can take you to jail. You don’t want to be in jail during a public health crisis.
Jails are filthy, and this will only increase your odds of getting sick. Even if you’re released after a short time, no one will want to hang around you and your jail germs. You’ll be right back where you started—home, alone—only now you’ll have court fees and illness to look forward to.
For those of you who are already getting cabin fever, I urge patience and caution: If you’re going to have to self-isolate anyway, you might as well save some money and skip the trip to jail.
We’re all in the same boat, and everyone’s kind of miserable right now. Do your part, don’t act the fool, and—when in doubt—always remember to Plead the 5th!