Hoosier business owners could face jail time for COVID-19 violations

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. –  Indiana business owners will face more penalties if they violate the governor’s newest COVID-19 order.

Companies who violate state and local orders will get a verbal warning first, a cease and desist letter second, a removal of their license or permit, and then finally, criminal charges.

It would be a Class B Misdemeanor, which could result in up to 180 days behind bars.

“So, they’re really giving every opportunity to cease and desist operating their business prior to it being referred for criminal prosecution, which I think hopefully strikes the appropriate balance,” said Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears.

Mears said he doesn’t think he will have to apply these charges in Marion County.

“We’ve been really encouraged by really how cooperative and helpful everybody has been here in Marion County,” said Mears.

However, he does say he’s glad to have this tool if he sees otherwise.

“I hope we never get to that point,” said Mears.

Democratic State Representative Ryan Dvorak said he thinks there are more violators than people know. He wants a better way for Hoosiers to report businesses who are putting employees at risk. He still thinks that should be a hotline.

“I just want to make sure that we have a system in place so that anybody can call up at any time and get their problem addressed because they are popping up all over the place,” said Rep. Dvorak.

But overall, Dvorak said he’s happier with the governor’s recent steps to create this response team. The first order didn’t allow for these extra enforcement measures.

“I think it’s a good step, and I think he is listening to the concerns that people have, but I still don’t think it’s quite enough,” said Dvorak.

Mears is hoping to appeal to the character of business owners in indiana.

“We are going to get through this a lot quicker if everybody follows the advice of medical professionals, of our government agencies, in asking people to stay home,” said Mears.

So far, Mears said he hasn’t had to prosecute any businesses related to this order.

However, he has prosecuted people who have driven under the influence during these non-essential travel bans.

He said he’s able to charge them both under the state and city orders.

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