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Judge: Anyone who knowingly puts others at risk of getting COVID-19 can be held in jail without bond

The state’s 6th Judicial Circuit says letting them out would make quarantine laws useless.
Credit: AP

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla — We’re living in a much different world than we were just a couple weeks ago.

The truth is, the threat of a dangerously contagious virus has always been there. Just Google the 1918 flu and you’ll see why the federal, state and local governments all have laws in place to deal with that very real concern.

Now, COVID-19 is spreading around the globe, the United States is seeing a spike in cases and Florida is among the hardest hit. So, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the state’s court systems are prepared to react accordingly when someone knowingly puts others at risk.

A judge in Florida’s Sixth Judicial Circuit issued an order Friday that states anyone who violates a coronavirus quarantine order will be arrested and held in jail without bond in Pinellas and Pasco counties.

The administrative order came on the heels of instructions from the Florida Supreme Court, which told all judges in the state to take steps to enforce the emergency rules that have been put in place to deal with the novel coronavirus.

This particular order means if a person is told to self-isolate because it’s believed they have COVID-19 – but they’re caught hanging out around town – they could find themselves isolated behind bars.

Anyone who knows they could have the virus and knowingly puts others at risk by refusing to stay home can also be arrested and held. That includes someone who lives with a person who tested positive or was exposed to someone who has. 

The arresting officer must notify the jail they’re bringing in someone who could be infected, and the staff will take precautions to make sure no one else is exposed.

According to a news release, the authority for this is written in Florida statute 381.00315, which covers all aspects of quarantine and isolation orders.

The release also states the order does not prevent judges from eventually modifying the no-bond status or “addressing the situation in some other way.”

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