On Thursday, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine released a two-page legal opinion analyzing the enforceability of the Executive Orders issued by Governor JB Pritzker and the Emergency Rule issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health, concluding that violations of either will not result in the filing of criminal charges by his office.
“Since taking office earlier this month as Madison County State’s Attorney I have directed a close review of all the various legal issues regarding the various applicable COVID-19 mandates,” said Haine. “I am now making these legal opinions public to provide a clear reference point for both public officials and private citizens relating to COVID-19 enforcement in Madison County, and to alleviate the concerns of many individuals who rightly feel an obligation to follow the law but are confused as to what the law actually is regarding the many COVID-19 mitigation protocols issued over the past months.” In summary, Haine concluded that “an individual would not be committing a crime if he or she were to violate the Emergency Rule issued by the Illinois Department of Public Health or any of the Governor’s COVID-19 Executive Orders, as these mandates do not contain a legal basis for prosecution against an individual citizen. Accordingly, my office is neither able nor willing to file criminal charges against anyone suspected of violating these directives from the State of Illinois.”
Haine’s legal opinion went on to analyze other applicable legal rules and considerations relating to COVID-19, and provide guidance to businesses on how to navigate customers’ individual rights while requiring basic COVID-19 precautions. “While my office cannot charge any individual with a crime for not following these COVID-19-related state directives, we can prosecute individuals for trespass or disorderly conduct if someone refuses to leave an establishment after being asked by the business owner,” Haine noted in an accompanying press release. “Just as individual citizens have rights, businesses also have rights which will be protected. Businesses must be given discretion on how and when to operate in accordance with applicable guidelines and subject to their own risk management.”
Haine acknowledged that the Madison County Health Department may seek a court order requiring isolation or quarantine, or a business to close, based on COVID outbreak or infection, which his office will handle on a case by case basis. Haine also stated that his office has no involvement and no legal authority to prosecute anyone suspected of violating Edwardsville’s recently adopted mask mandate.
“In exercising the discretion of my office, we will protect the rights of individuals and businesses. Our Constitutional rights are not suspended during a pandemic,” Haine said.