Signed Mask Mandate Has No Criminal Penalties

Multiple sheriffs across Indiana spoke out about the mask mandate with the final order signed and set for Monday.

Posted: Jul 24, 2020 10:05 PM

All Hoosiers will be required to mask up on Monday, but it's not as simple as that.

Confusion and chaos is blanketing Indiana, as the executive order doesn't carry with it the criminal penalty Governor Eric Holcomb first proposed.

This comes as multiple sheriffs including at least 3 in the Indiana Tri-State area are speaking out about the mandate.

It's an abrupt about-face from Governor Holcomb.

Just days after the governor said, "Not wearing a mask is a Class B misdemeanor," a crime with the potential for fines or even jail time--now, a revelation in the final signed order: enforcement now falls to health departments.

No criminal penalties.

Even with a de-fanged order, Posey County's sheriff is keeping a careful eye on an already quietly-changed mandate, standing firm on his constitutional views.

"My stance was, being that this wasn't a law, we have no authority to arrest someone. Basically take them away from their freedoms of coming and going. I wanted to assure people in the confines of the county that we weren't going to enforce that," Sheriff Tom Latham explained.

That's a stance in line with the legal opinion from the attorney general, challenging criminal penalties in the mandate.

A growing list of local law enforcement officials have looked to the legal confusion the order--as first announced, and now in place--has created as guiding their position.

Dubois County's sheriff, saying with the executive order "...being challenged as to whether it's constitutional or not..."--means it "...cannot and will not be enforced..." by their agency.

Daviess County's sheriff, pointing to the late change in language, found not wearing a mask "...does not constitute a crime or an enforceable action by the police."

But for Sheriff Tom Latham, for him it comes down to a matter of principle:

"I'm simply saying we were never going to take someone to jail, in a sense for the same penalty as operating while intoxicated. When I stood with my right hand up and that I would defend the Constitution, taking someone to jail would be a violation of their constitution if I were to go by that original mandate from the governor."

Local and state opponents in office continue to stress that it's not an issue of wearing a mask vs. no mask.

Rather, an issue of law, and many are still asking you to consider covering up.

Taking a look across the Tri-State, the mask mandate in Indiana does face a potentially uncertain future.

It's similar to ones already in place in Illinois and Kentucky, and those have already faced some challenges in the courts.

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