Can I be charged with a crime if I don’t stay at home?

Kimberly2 1Author:

Kimberly J. Benjamin, Founder & Managing Attorney

This is America. Despite the naysayers, we still enjoy more freedom than any other country on earth. This is, like most things, a double-edged sword.

As COVID-19 starts its nasty trip across the country, we are all on lock down, or rather, we should be on lock down. Many of us are out there foolishly running around doing our non-essential business and carrying on like nothing is really going on. This is after all America, and nothing spells freedom like driving to work and doing your job.

But wait, on April 3, 2020, Governor Mike Parsons finally signed his Stay At Home Order that went into effect yesterday because of COVID.  It’s really more of a strong suggestion, than an order, as it doesn’t appear to have much teeth, though violating the terms of the order could be a crime – a class A misdemeanor.

Missouri Revised Statute section 192.320  is titled “Violation of law or quarantine — penalty.” It basically says that if you violate any of certain sections of the code, you can be deemed guilty of a class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors carry with them up to a year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.

Now, my interpretation here is a bit of a stretch in the reading of that statute, but I have seen the section referenced by a few municipalities and the state to say law enforcement officers can enforce their stay at home orders and non-essential business closures. I doubt that the state authorities or county sheriff’s will be running around handing out tickets, but who knows?

What will happen I’m afraid, is there will be tickets issued from local health departments finding businesses that they deem non-essential in the age of COVID.

Warnings have been dolled out to over 200 businesses in Kansas City.  KC relies on the Mayor’s Order and a local ordinance which gives him the power to make such an order and says that violations can be punished up to six months in jail and a $25 to $500 fine.

Many cities have similar provisions and powers across Missouri.

With fines and jail come due process rights, however, and that means you’ll need the Missouri DWI & Criminal Law Center at the Benjamin Law Firm, LLC, to make sure you get all the rights you are due.  If you have questions, set up a phone or video appointment at

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