The spread of COVID-19 has upended virtually every facet of modern life. Now, new social distancing requirements in Pennsylvania make it illegal to enter convenience stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets without a mask or face covering. Fail to do so and you could be charged with disorderly conduct.
Disorderly conduct is typically used to describe unreasonable behavior in public. Making unreasonably loud noises, using obscene language, or engaging in threatening behavior can all warrant disorderly conduct charges. Should a person cause serious harm or inconvenience to others while engaging in such behaviors, disorderly conduct charges can be upgraded to the third degree.
What Misdemeanor Charges Mean for Pennsylvanians
Should you opt not to wear a mask when visiting your local grocery store, you could be facing misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges The maximum penalty for such a crime is a year incarceration and up to $2,500 in fines. While it's unlikely that anyone would face these maximum sentences for failing to wear a mask, such penalties are possible. In most cases, the Commonwealth will likely find it difficult to prove that the person caused substantial harm or inconvenience.
Still, failing to put on a mask or leave the premises after a warning could warrant charges. Since Pennsylvania is putting the word out about the mandate through every media outlet available, there's no reason to claim ignorance about the new requirement.
Although there are mixed opinions regarding the matter, wearing a mask may be an easy way to help ease COVID-19's impact on society at large. While they might be uncomfortable at times, the small sacrifice may do wonders for our fellow man. Regardless of where you stand regarding whether wearing a mask is beneficial or not, if you can't wear a mask, it's arguably best to stay out of retail stores for the time being. Doing so is the easiest way to avoid misdemeanor charges.
Will You be Arrested?
Generally speaking, those who violate mask requirements will not be handcuffed and taken to the police station. The person may be asked to leave the premises and be ticketed for their decision not to wear a mask, but police are generally looking for voluntary compliance when enforcing these new rules.
Just because you won't be hauled off in handcuffs doesn't mean you should skip the mask altogether. Ignorance of the law is no defense. If you knew about the mask requirements and chose not to follow them, you may indeed be fined or sentenced to jail time.
Because this is relatively uncharted legal territory, there's no telling how severely the criminal justice system will penalize those who flout the law. Misdemeanor criminal offenses are not immediately expungeable in Pennsylvania (as a person would have to turn 70 years old and have met other conditions to become eligible). That means your choice to disobey mask requirements could follow you around for years after conviction (although a record sealing / limited access may be possible after 10 years if other conditions are also met).
If You've Been Charged
If you've been charged, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Given how stressful an arrest and charge can be, it's important to find representation that's both empathetic and experienced. No matter the situation that led to your arrest, Joseph Lento will represent you and fight for your best interests. Schedule your consultation online today, or call 888-535-3686.