We are in unprecedented times – trying to blunt a worldwide pandemic that could kill thousands, if not millions, of world citizens. So what if I don’t follow government directives or choose to act contrary to them. What can they do to me?
Well, depending upon the directive you are disobeying, it could very well give rise to potential criminal responsibility in several ways. First, Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes has specific provisions regarding an individual’s obligation to follow a lawfully adopted emergency order or directive. Additionally, roughly two-thirds of the states have criminal laws governing the intentional spreading, or attempting to spread, contagious or infectious diseases. Recklessly placing someone at risk of physical harm or illness can in and of itself violate the Criminal Code. This area of the law already has a history in the context of dealing with sexually transmitted diseases. So, such wrongful conduct can actually result in criminal charges on a number of fronts exposing an individual to fines and other penalties, including imprisonment.
Beyond the potential criminal law repercussions, there can also be ramifications through the civil law as well. Under New Jersey law, one can be subject to civil liability should you recklessly, carelessly or negligently cause the spread of an infectious or contagious disease. A claim for civil damages would include damages for pain and suffering; mental anguish; emotional distress; and economic damages including lost wages. These types of damages can be substantial.
And of course, aside from the potential criminal and civil penalties of not following health and safety directives there is the obvious moral responsibility that we all share. The other 7.5 billion inhabitants of this world are relying upon each of us to act responsibly during this time of crisis.
The theme we should all follow would be to be careful, be safe, be considerate of your neighbor and follow the directives of federal, state and local authorities. This too shall pass!!! And remember, we here at Cooper Levenson are available to help each and everyone of our clients through this crisis and to address all of your legal needs.