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One question that arose when Gov. Laura Kelly issued stay-at-home orders through April 19 for Kansans, was if there were laws in place for an enforcement of such orders.
"Kansas law does provide an enforcement mechanism that law enforcement may use to enforce executive orders and orders from Kansas Department of Health and Environment," said Ford County Attorney Kevin Salzman. "At the county attorney’s office, we do not have a one-size-fits-all approach if we were presented with a case of someone who was alleged to have violated the governor’s executive order.
"We would look at all of the facts and evidence of the incident, the surrounding circumstances of the alleged violation, and work with law enforcement as well as with the county health department to craft a solution that promotes the health and safety of the county."
In a memo sent out to jurisdictions from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, regarding enforcement the memo stated, "Violations of a lawful order or proclamation issued by the governor under the Kansas Emergency Management Act or a quarantine order issued by the secretary of health and environment or by a local health officer are misdemeanor offenses.
"All Kansas law enforcement officers should continue to exercise discretion in how and when to enforce violations of these criminal laws. We recommend no criminal enforcement of these orders until they have been properly published.
"In addition, law enforcement may enforce non-criminal orders if properly ordered to do so by the governor, the secretary of health and environment, or a local health officer."
The memo also went on to say that law enforcement should consult with local emergency managers to determine what role law enforcement may have in any local, inter-jurisdictional or state disaster plans that are in effect.
"As it currently stands our intention will be to continue educating the public on the Governor’s Executive Orders," Ford County Sheriff Bill Carr said. "We will continue to assess the situation as it presents changes on a continual basis.
"As for enforcement of violations, we will look at each situation on a case-by-case basis.
"Violation of an Executive Order issued by the Governor is a Class A misdemeanor and Violation of an Order by State/County Health is a Class C misdemeanor.
"We are in hopes that our citizens will continue to abide by the orders as set forth and as they continue to change if needed."
According to Salzman, the penalty for a Class A misdemeanors is a maximum penalty of one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
A Class C misdemeanor has maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and $500 in fines.
Dodge City police Chief Drew Francis reiterated the same as Carr, saying that the police department focus, "will be on educating the public and answering questions."
One thing that will be a major focus of enforcement will be that of COVID-19 fraud and scamming.
On Wednesday, it was announced by Schmidt and U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister that a state-federal partnership to investigate and prosecute scammers.
The coordination will allow the agencies to more quickly verify allegations and prosecute.
“This partnership will allow our two agencies to bring the maximum state and federal resources to bear to stop scams, frauds and price gouging during this state of emergency,” Schmidt said. “I appreciate Steve’s strong leadership in the U.S. attorney’s office and look forward to working closely with his team to protect Kansans in the face of this crisis.”
If anyone has information about COVID-19-related scams or price gouging, a complaint with the attorney general’s office can be filed online through a form specifically designed for coronavirus issues at www.ag.ks.gov.
“Nationally, we have seen everything from people offering for sale respiratory masks they were not going to deliver to people seeking donations for nonexistent COVID-19 charities,” McAllister said. “We are not going to stand by while that happens in Kansas.”
A Kansas hotline to request a paper complaint form be sent by mail is 800-432-2310.
Complaints can also be submitted to the U.S. attorney’s office by email at USAKS.Covid.Fraud@usdoj.gov or by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721.
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