Cities across Illinois consider civil fines to stack on top of possible criminal charges for violating governor’s stay-at-home order

(The Center Square) – Cities across Illinois are looking to stack civil penalties on top of criminal penalties for people who violate the stay-at-home order that lasts through April 30. Public health officials say the order is meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday said local authorities were responsible for enforcement of his stay-at-home order. However, he said he didn’t encourage arrests.

“But if people are encouraging others to get together in groups of more than ten or to not social distancing, I think at some point it is worthy of considering a real consequence,” Pritzker said.

He also said he’d call the police on his neighbors for having too large of a gathering.

Normal Mayor Chris Koos said law enforcement will be out enforcing the ban on gatherings of 10 or more people.

“You can go out in your yard, or be in the park, or walk down the sidewalk, but don’t play on the playgrounds, don’t host that neighborhood party and don’t get together with friends,” Koos said.

There have been enforcement actions reported in Quincy, Rockford, Alton and elsewhere.

Similar civil charges like obstruction or other ordinance violations cities may have could also be applied to stay-at-home violations.

In Springfield, Mayor Jim Langfelder is considering what civil fines could be issued on top of criminal charges.

Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow said the governor’s order has been interpreted incorrectly by even some elected officials who’ve reported pickup basketball games and other activities.

“They can have a neighborhood barbecue as long as there’s less than 10 people there,” Winslow said. “It may not be the wisest idea, but they’re allowed to do those type of things and these are the calls that we’re being sent to. Some are violations. Some are not.”

Springfield Alderman Ralph Hanauer on Tuesday night questioned how much longer the stay-at-home order will go and said enforcement may get more difficult as time progresses.

“I’m concerned that if you don’t think there’s compliance now, wait until the end of the month because if they extend this people are going to go crazy because people are ready to get back to work,” Hanauer said. “You wouldn’t think so, but people are ready to get back to work.”

The governor’s stay-at-home order runs through April 30.

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