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Coronavirus: Is it Illegal to Hide an Infectious Disease or Break Quarantine?

 

The World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. In Texas, schools have shut down, public events have been canceled, and hundreds of people have been quarantined, including those traveling to Texas from neighboring Louisiana. Such measures have people wondering about the state’s authority to restrict a person’s freedom of movement. So, what happens if an individual lies about having the coronavirus or breaks quarantine?

Can You be Prosecuted for Hiding a Communicable Disease?

In Texas, it is a criminal offense to knowingly conceal or attempt to conceal the fact that you, or a minor in your care, were exposed to or are a carrier for a communicable disease that is a threat to the public.

Concealing a communicable disease is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine“Communicable disease” is broadly defined as an illness that occurs through the transmission of an infectious agent.

Can Officials Order You to Stay in Quarantine?

Yes. Texas Health and Safety Code Section 81.083 allows local health authorities who have reasonable cause to believe a person has a communicable disease to “implement control measures that are reasonable and necessary to prevent the…spread of the disease with this state.”

Quarantine can be established for an entire area, property or group of individuals. Doctors may obtain a public health order that requires you to remain within a quarantined area and comply with any required testing. The public health order must be in writing and is effective until such time as the individual is no longer infected. Section 81.085 provides that a health authority can establish an area that is quarantined.

Is Breaking Quarantine Illegal?

Yes, in Texas it is illegal to knowingly refuse to follow the orders or rules of the health authority or governor while under quarantine. Additionally a peace officer may use reasonable force to secure the quarantine area.

  • Failure to comply with rule, order, or instruction of a health authority is a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.
  • Failure to comply with any executive order issued by the governor during the COVID-19 disaster is punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both fine and confinement.

If are you or a loved one is charged with breaking quarantine or hiding an infectious disease, it’s important to contact an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. We can help. Our team is made of up skilled defense attorneys with a proven record of success. Call us today at 817-203-2220 for a free consultation. Due to the coronavirus, we are also offering consultations over the phone and via FaceTime and Skype.

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