‘This is not martial law’: Local law enforcement addresses EO 20-20

Published 7:01 am Saturday, March 28, 2020

In an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-20 on Wednesday. Otherwise known as the “Stay at Home Order,” EO 2020 states that Minnesotans should make every effort to stay home and limit movement outside the home.

Not all movement is restricted; residents can still leave their homes for reasons such as grocery shopping, getting takeout food orders, leisurely driving and outdoor activities (while maintaining social distancing practices), among others.

“There is no specific order that you can’t be out, nor is there a specific order as to how many can be in a car,” said Mower County Sheriff Steve Sandvik. “There’s no basis for us to say you can’t be out because the governor’s order has exceptions.”

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In a statement on the Austin Police Department’s Facebook page, Austin Police Chief David McKichan said the order “is very broad in what activity is exempted and what professions and type of work are exempted,” but noted “some work types will not be covered and we would ask that you follow the order.”

“We are aware that for some additional businesses and employees this will be a hardship,” he added.

Under the order, going out for purposes other than what the order specifies is a misdemeanor that could carry a penalty of a $1,000 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. Despite this, law enforcement still has to have probable cause to stop a vehicle or an individual.

“The Sheriff Office’s response to this would be we will pull you over for normal traffic violations, and that may be a question that is asked; what are you doing and why are you out?” Sandvik said. “And we will try to educate them about what the governor’s order says.”

“Your individual constitutional rights will not be transgressed,” McKichan said. “We will not be randomly stopping pedestrians, bicyclists, or motor vehicles to check your destination or intent. We will not be asking to see any sort of letter of transit nor proof of employment in any random encounter.”

While Sandvik and McKichan urge residents to do their part to follow the order and make every effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, they know that some responsibilities are unavoidable.

“We want you to get to work if you are exempt. We want you to continue to be a caregiver for others if that is your role. We want you to shop for the food and supplies that you might need at home and there is no need to rush into grocery stores […] You can still go to the doctor. You can still take your kids to daycare if you need to work in a critical sector,” McKichan said.

“This is not martial law; there is no mention of curfew in this order,” Sandvik said. “There is a reasonable expectation among law enforcement for people to be out and about for legitimate purposes.”