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Is there a penalty for violating an Executive Order?

On March 13, 2020, Gov. Henry McMaster issued Executive Order No. 2020-08, declaring a State of Emergency in South Carolina based on a determination that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) poses an actual or imminent public health emergency for the State of South Carolina.  On Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Gov. McMaster issued Executive Order 2020-10 which expanded the State’s response to this virus by directing and ordering all restaurants and food-service establishments to suspend service of on-site consumption or dine-in eating, and further directed and ordered that any organized event or public gathering of more than 50 people, whether indoors or outdoors, should be suspended as well.  This Executive Order does not apply to grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, gas stations or charitable food distribution sites to the extent that such businesses, entities or operations prepare, produce or otherwise offer, sell or distribute prepared food. However, on-premises, sit-down food or beverage service within these facilities is prohibited.  Additionally, the Governor’s Executive Order does not apply to essential or emergency meetings of state or local government bodies or gatherings of government officials or employees or other personnel that may be required in connection with the performance of emergency or essential government functions.

So what is the penalty for violating an Executive Order?  Section 16-7-10 of the South Carolina Code of Laws informs us that during a State of Emergency, it is unlawful to violate the Governor’s Order.  If an individual violates an Executive Order during a State of Emergency, they are subject to being convicted of a misdemeanor offense and could face jail time of up to 30 days or a fine of up to $100.  Individuals charged with crimes associated with property damage and looting during a State of Emergency are subject to being convicted of a felony offense with fines and imprisonment left to a judge’s discretion.  These are penalties associated just with the violation of an Executive Order.  There may be other criminal charges and collateral consequences to violating an Executive Order in addition to those discussed here. 

Remember, we are all in this together.  Keep calm, and stay safe. 

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Attorney Ryan McCarty
Attorney Ryan McCarty

Blog post by Ryan McCarty. Click here to learn more about Ryan.