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Is Failing to be Smart and Civic-Minded a Crime?

Stay at home orders in Colorado and most states throughout the nation have become reluctantly commonplace. While Gov. Jared Polis lifted the mandate, replacing with a milder “safer at home” order, city officials in Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson remain the same.

Specific mandates in response to the COVID-19 outbreak remain confusing, if not more so following the recent change. Even more troubling are the penalties that remain for violating the coronavirus-driven mandates.

New laws for a new normal

Fear was already a significant factor when the deadly virus spread throughout Colorado. Threats of criminal repercussions for not abiding by newly established tenants only added to the anxiety. With limited verbiage in the mandate, what is not known is more than what is known. Rumors are creating confusion, if not outright misinformation.

Fines and more severe penalties sill exist for failing to social distance at six feet, gather in crowds, drive when it is not essential, or fail to wash hands for a minimum of 15 seconds.

Law enforcement leaders believe that continuing education should remain a priority with citations and arrests as a last resort. Those traveling in cars would only be asked about their destinations if probable cause existed for another traffic violation. Crowds can be dispersed. Standing too close to someone should result in a gentle reminder, not severe punitive measures.

However, leaders are standing behind their decisions as orders, not recommendations. Denver has seen no severe violations reported to date. Overall crime is down by nearly a third. Yet, police departments in the cities maintaining stay at home orders have their orders to be mindful of any violations. Anonymous tips continue to roll in with many reporting socially-related “crimes” and nonessential businesses that remain in operation.

Whether orders involve staying or being safe, the definition of criminal activity has changed, even if it is only temporary. With it comes a reality as unsettling as any global pandemic.

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