[IMAGE CREDIT: iStock / Happy-vector]
[Original Publish Date: 04/12/20]
BROOKSVILLE, Florida – Go to jail in Lake County for violating an isolation or quarantine order and you will stay there – at a minimum until first appearance, states an order signed by the Fifth Judicial Circuit’s chief judge Friday.
Drawing upon a 1943 Florida Supreme Court decision as precedent, Fifth Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Daniel B. Merritt, Jr. issued an administrative order Friday which calls for persons to be held without bond if arrested for violating “isolation or quarantine” or “any requirement adopted by the Department of Health in accordance with a declared public health emergency” – a second degree misdemeanor offense. The order applies to persons arrested in Lake, Marion, Citrus, Sumter, or Hernando counties.
Specifically, the circuit-wide order (A-2020-22) reads in pertinent part: “Due to the danger to the public health for such a violation, the bond shall initially be set at ‘no bond.’ See Varholy v. Sweat, 15 So. 2d 267 (Fla. 1943) stating ‘To grant release on bail to persons isolated and detained on a quarantine order because they have a contagious disease which makes them dangerous to others, or to the public in general, would render quarantine laws and regulations nugatory and of no avail.'” The order continues, “This provision does not preclude the judge presiding at first appearance hearings from modifying the ‘no bond’ status if appropriate. This provision also does not preclude the assigned judge or duty judge from addressing other emergency relief, if the circumstances warrant it.”
The order – which remains in effect “[w]hile the State of Florida remains under a declared public health emergency for COVID-19” – holds out a dual presumption: “When any person is arrested for a violation of section 381.00315, Fla. Stat., who is ‘reasonably believed to be infected’ with the coronavirus or who is ‘reasonably believed to have been exposed’ that violation is presumed to involve a danger to the public health.'”
The cited 1943 Florida Supreme Court case was a Duval County, Florida, habeas corpus proceeding involving a jailed woman who had “a communicable venereal disease” – albeit “[t]here was no testimony of immoral habits on the part of the petitioner.” When a public health official’s quarantine order against the woman blocked her release from jail she sought legal redress, but relief was denied.
James Hope is a Florida Bar Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer who has been practicing criminal law in Tavares, Florida, since 1987. He has also been the Publisher and Executive Editor of Lake Legal News since 2009. He may be contacted at LakeLegalNews@gmail.com, or through his website at www.AttorneyJamesHope.com. [PHOTO CREDIT: Bonnie Whicher]