Arrests and Charges Amidst Coronavirus in New Jersey
Governor Murphy’s Stay at Home Order requires residents of New Jersey to do just that, stay at home. Despite what certain members of the public may think, there is no moratorium on arrests during COVID-19. In fact, plenty of residents in Lakewood and throughout Ocean County are finding out just how serious Governor Murphy is about this Order. Perhaps the order is taken seriously because in just a few short weeks, the number of people in New Jersey testing positive for the virus has ballooned. Ocean County is among the many counties with thousands of cases according to the New Jersey Department of Health. As such, the statewide order to shelter in place is in effect in the hopes of preventing the spread of the disease and danger to the public by limiting social gatherings and environments in which people are simultaneously present in one location.
Understanding the Basics of the NJ COVID-19 Stay at Home Order and Violations
The Stay at Home Order does not mean that New Jersey is on lock down, but it does mean that certain rules are in place for the protection of the public. Under the order:
- All non-essential businesses are closed;
- All residents must stay at home unless they are seeking essential goods or services or medical care, are visiting family or close friends, or engaging in outdoor activities;
- Individuals cannot host or attend unauthorized celebrations or parties;
- Those who do not meet the criteria for essential workers must remain home from work, but have the option of working remotely
The New Jersey Attorney General, Gurbir Grewal, vowed to charge anyone who “threatens public health” by holding large gatherings, opening businesses, or otherwise engaging in conduct that violates Governor Murphy’s Order. It appears that Gerwal has made good on his promise, as numerous people have been arrested for domestic violence, hosting events with large numbers of people, and other violations. Since law enforcement officers are continuing to patrol and arrest individuals in Ocean County and throughout New Jersey, you may also run into trouble for marijuana possession, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, terroristic threats, simple assault, DWI, or another offense codified in New Jersey law.
If you have been arrested or charged with a disorderly persons offense or an indictable crime during the Coronavirus epidemic currently impacting Ocean County and the state of New Jersey, you will eventually be required to face these allegations in court and plead guilty or not guilty to the offense. Depending on the degree of the alleged crime involved in your case, you may face a county jail or prison term, heavy fines, and a criminal conviction on your record. Please be advised, these offenses are not minor and can be devastating for you and those you love. Our experienced Ocean County criminal defense attorneys at Proetta & Oliver are available anytime to discuss your case and answer your questions. We offer free consultations and welcome you to contact us at (848) 238-2100 if you are in need of legal counsel.
Arrests during COVID-19 in New Jersey
At the lowest level, anyone who violates the stay at home order during COVID can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. Believe it or not, a disorderly persons offense carries a potential jail sentence of 6 months and a fine of up to $1,000. The offense will also be reflected on your criminal record. Anyone charged with a disorderly persons offense must attend Municipal Court in the town where the alleged criminal infraction occurred. Thus, if you have been charged with a disorderly persons offense in Toms River, Brick Township, Manchester, Lacey Township, Seaside Heights, Point Pleasant, or another town in the Ocean County area, your case will be heard in the local Municipal Court in the municipality where the charges were filed.
There are many examples of ways in which the Order has been or can be violated. The following examples of illegal behavior were plucked right from the headlines in Ocean County:
- Person arrested for hosting a wedding with 20-30 attendees;
- 2 people charged with maintaining a nuisance for permitting 35 males to congregate at a school;
- 17 people arrested for attending an outdoor funeral;
- 2 people charged with opening a clothing store to the public;
- 1 person charged for offering alcohol for sale illegally while in a residential area with at least ten people present.
In addition to being charged with disorderly persons offense, those arrested during the Coronavirus outbreak can be charged with indictable crimes as well. Anyone accused in Ocean County of an indictable crime (also known as a felony) may be arrested, charged, and required to appear in Ocean County Superior Court. Some arrests have already occurred in Ocean County resulting in the filing of indictable criminal complaints. For instance, two people were arrested for having a bat mitzvah in which 40-50 people were present. They were arrested on five counts of child endangerment, as children were present. In this situation, it is presumed that permitting children to be around large groups of people exposes them to illness thereby “endangering” their welfare. Two others were charged with child neglect for having an engagement party with 13 people and 6 children in attendance. This is also a criminal offense punishable by a sentence to serve time in state prison.
You can see that many of these arrests are based upon an alleged failure to follow the current directive. Simply put, intentionally organizing or attending any large gathering may result in your arrest and serious criminal charges. Beyond violations of the current order, any violation of the laws in NJ can expose you to serious consequences.
Arrested for a Crime or Violation during Coronavirus in Ocean County NJ?
If you have been charged with a violation, crime, or DUI in the midst of Coronavirus, our Ocean County criminal defense lawyers can protect your rights and ensure that you have access to every option to achieve a superior outcome in your case. Contact our local office in Point Pleasant at (848) 238-2100 to discuss your case and your potential defenses in a cost-free consultation.