Attorney General Kathy Jennings this week urged Delawareans to heed Gov. John Carney’s Declarations of a State of Emergency. The Declaration of a State of Emergency and all its modifications carry criminal punishment and have been enforced throughout Delaware, she emphasized.
“This is a tremendously difficult time for everyone, and the only path forward is for all of us to take this seriously as a community,” said Jennings. “These temporary restrictions are unprecedented, but they are necessary. Everyone’s job right now is to save lives. There is no alternative. And when people don’t take these orders seriously, we must step in.”
“The overwhelming majority of Delawareans have heeded the governor’s calls to be diligent and to keep their communities safe. By obeying the emergency orders, you are saving the lives of your family, your friends and your neighbors. The message to those who ignore the orders is simple: You are endangering people’s lives, including law-enforcement officers, by forcing unnecessary interaction.”
Some of the enforcement actions to date have included:
- Several individuals have been cited for failure to obey an emergency order, including last week in Newark and elsewhere throughout the state.
- Six businesses have been issued cease and desist orders for operating in violation of the Orders; one business owner was arrested for repeated non-compliance. The AG’s Office noted that he was arrested for failure to obey an emergency order, but was cited in his personal capacity for personal behavior. (As a separate but concurrent matter, they said, his business was noncompliant with Carney’s emergency directive and, after multiple police contacts, was issued a cease-and-desist order.)
- The Department of Justice has received more than two dozen formal complaints regarding price gouging and has initiated communication with those businesses. The Consumer Protection Unit has served a subpoena on the Great Valu at Adams Four, related to price-gouging allegations, after the department’s initial letter went unanswered.
- Officers throughout the state are enforcing the ban on travelers coming to Delaware from out-of-state and not quarantining. For example, Delaware State Police have been operating a checkpoint on Naamans Road in Wilmington, inquiring about out-of-state drivers’ business in Delaware. Additional checkpoints were conducted throughout Sussex County, including the Route 1 corridor in the area of Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach, Route 20 in Long Neck and Route 113 south of Millsboro.
- The Department of State has sent several warning letters to businesses, informing them that they will be shut down if their behavior does not change.
Failure to obey an emergency order is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 to $500 and up to six months in prison per infraction. Additionally, persons or businesses who engage in price-gouging activity face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per offense.
“Our troopers will continue to fulfill the mission of the Delaware State Police, which is to enhance the quality of life for all Delaware citizens and visitors, by providing professional, competent and compassionate law enforcement services,” said Delaware State Police Superintendent Col. Nathaniel McQueen, Jr. “They will continue to enforce the laws of the State of Delaware, to include those associated with the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration, in an appropriate and just manner.
“Our emphasis and goal in enforcing the orders, specifically in regards to the travel restrictions, is to achieve voluntary compliance through education and awareness. The health and well-being of our troopers, as well as the community, will remain our top priority as we continue to serve and protect, during this unprecedented event.”
The DOJ has publicly issued guidance to law enforcement and the general public on frequent questions about the orders’ practical impact. Those guidance documents are available on the DOJ’s website.
The DOJ also issued answers to frequently asked questions about the State of Emergency’s price-gouging ban. Delawareans who wish to report price gouging should contact the DOJ’s Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-220-5424 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delawareans can find additional information about the coronavirus and the State’s response at de.gov/coronavirus. Delawareans who have public health questions or need a testing referral and do not have a primary care physician can call the Division of Public Health’s hotline at 1-866-408-1899.