Covid-19 Fines

Happy Friday everybody, hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are gearing up towards this Christmas or Hanukkah holiday, and closing out the year strong. 2020 has been a struggle for a lot of us, but the end is in sight. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so let’s push on through and get to 2021.

For this week’s video, I wanted to talk about a question that I have been getting from a couple of different places. And that’s, if you’re a business owner in Texas, can you be criminally fined for your businesses’ lack of a mask policy or a face covering policy? So it’s a tricky, tricky, tricky question, okay? Governor Abbott here in the state of Texas issued an order that local authorities are not allowed to impose any civil or criminal penalties associated with an individual not wearing a mask. Okay? That’s what the governor has said.

However, local ordinances and local orders are still finding a way to circumvent that order just in the slightest fashions. And so it’s important that you take a look at whatever your specific county has passed, to determine what they can and can’t do. For example, Dallas County has issued an order that says every business that operates in Dallas County must come up with and enact what they’re calling a health and safety protocol that conforms with CDC guidelines. Failure to come up with and enact an unacceptable health and safety protocol is punishable by fine of up to a thousand dollars. Okay?

Now, that seems like it is a criminal or a civil penalty related to the wearing of face coverings. Because as you might imagine, any CDC approved protocol is going to include customers and employees wearing masks. So if Dallas County decides that your business has failed to enact a CDC approved protocol, meaning that your business is not requiring employees and customers to wear masks, you as the business owners could be fined.

That seems like a circumvention of governor Abbott’s order that says you can’t impose a fine for people not wearing a mask. So it’s tricky, right? And if you want to be the business owner in Dallas County that bucks that local order and says, “I’m not enacting in that protocol because governor Abbott says it’s okay.” And then you get fined and you want to fight it and you want to appeal it, then be my guests, right? I expect that certain businesses might very well do that. However, if in the year 2020, your ultimate goal is simply to go along, get through this year, and not incur any fines or any penalties that you’ll have to then fight about later and probably spend money on a lawyer to fight about, the very best thing you can do, the very best advice I can give you is take a look at those local orders, read them very, very carefully and see exactly what they say.

Okay? So if you’re in Dallas, look at the Dallas County orders. I know for example, that Austin County has a similar orders, Bayer County has a similar orders, Travis County has similar orders. All these counties kind of around the state has, or similar to Dallas. Collin and Denton I don’t believe have any such requirement, but just like everything else in 2020, that’s subject to change at a moment’s notice.

So if you have any questions, or if you’d like me to look up the specific county that you’re located in and give you some advice on what that order says and what you have to do or what you don’t have to do, or if you’ve been fined by a county agency, and you want to ask what your rights are, what your options are relating to that fine, please feel free to call me. I’m happy to talk to you about it.

This is all an incredibly confusing and complex area of the law. It’s rapidly changing. So nobody’s answers are going to be set in stone. Nobody knows with a hundred percent certainty what’s going to happen, but I can do my very best to try to interpret the orders as they’re written right now and try to coach you through that. So I’m here to help. I’m here to answer any questions you have, please reach out. I’m happy to talk to you about them.

But in the meantime, stay safe, protect yourself, protect other people, do everything you can, like I said, to just push through the end of this 2020. Let’s get to 2021, have a happy and healthy year. Hope everybody out there is having a great weekend, and we’ll talk to ya’ll next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

LinkedIn | State Bar Association | Avvo | Google