According to an administrative order signed on April 6 by Lisa Davidson, Chief Judge for the 18th judicial circuit, if you violate quarantine orders or any requirements adopted by the state health department, not only can you be arrested and fined, but you can also be held without bond under extreme circumstances.
The order makes the violation of quarantine a second-degree misdemeanor charge. It follows similar judicial decrees issued throughout the state, including in neighboring Orange County.
There has been some debate as to whether the order only applies to those who have been specifically quarantined, such as travelers from coronavirus hot spots like the New York tri-state area. Judge Davidson clarified in a statement to the press that the order is “intended solely for an individual who is COVID-19 symptomatic and flagrantly defies all common sense guidelines for social distancing and self-quarantining.” She encouraged law enforcement to use “extreme discretion in making such arrests.”
However, the judge’s intent doesn’t seem to be reflected in the wording of the statute. The order states those violating rules adopted under Florida Statute 381.00315, which empowers state health officials to declare a public health emergency and enact quarantine orders, can be charged with a second degree misdemeanor and held without bail. It cites the 1943 case of Pauline Varholy, a Floridian who was held without bond in Duval County on the grounds her venereal disease posed a public health risk.
The order doesn’t have any requirement for the people violating the quarantine order to be symptomatic as indicated in Davidson’s statement. It appears to apply to anyone “reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease, but who is not yet ill.”
The most affected by the order are those who traveled to Florida from COVID-19 hot spots and filled out quarantine forms. Those people are likely being tracked in a searchable database by law enforcement and might find themselves in big trouble if they are stopped for speeding, running a stop sign, etc.
How well police will follow Davidson’s “extreme discretion” when making arrests remains to be seen. Reports from Palm Beach County indicate that police have already tacked on the additional second-degree misdemeanor charge in the cases of four individuals facing charges for drug possession, DUI, theft, and lying to police.
Anyone under investigation and facing possible arrest for charges that include violating the governor’s stay-at-home order should immediately consult a bail bonds attorney. Under Florida Law, anyone arrested in the state must be brought before a magistrate judge within 24 hours. The judge will, at a minimum, determine if there is enough of an allegation to justify an arrest and initial loss of freedom.
South Florida Bail Bonds Attorney