Indiana AG Says Holcomb 'Lacks Authority' to Criminalize Mask Violations

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill says he believes Governor Eric Holcomb is overstepping his authority with his statewide mask mandate.

Posted: Jul 23, 2020 2:25 PM
Updated: Jul 23, 2020 3:13 PM

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill says Governor Eric Holcomb lacks the authority to criminalize violations of his statewide mask mandate and is asking the governor to call a special legislative session.

During his July 22 coronavirus update, Indiana's governor said he would sign an Executive Order on Thursday that would make masks mandatory throughout the Hoosier State as of July 27.

According to Holcomb's announcement, failure to wear a mask under the specifications of the Executive Order will be a Class B misdemeanor - which carries a potential sentence of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 - though Holcomb also said that “the mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”

Although Indiana's attorney says he supports laws requiring the mandatory wearing of masks as a means of slowing the spread of COVID-19, he says that's not the issue at hand.

“The wisdom of wearing masks — or of laws requiring such measures — is not the issue here," said AG Hill. "Rather, the issue is whether we are following the proper and constitutional processes for enacting laws and whether we are respecting the distinct roles of each branch of state government.”

Hill says that although he believes that executive orders have an important function during times of emergency, at this point in the coronavirus pandemic, "it’s time to show some deference to the branch of government actually charged by our state constitution with the responsibility for enacting laws."

AG Hill things that before anyone can be subject to a criminal penalty for not wearing a mask, Gov. Holcomb's order should be debated by the legislative body that represents the people of the state.

Click here to see the advisory opinion issued by Hill.

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