Stay-at-Home Orders, Essential Businesses and Felony Looting During COVID-19


Since March 19, Californians have been ordered to stay at home by Gov. Gavin Newsom to help cut down coronavirus / COVID-19 infection rates. As of late April, the order is still in effect. Newsom, the California Department of Public Health and other state officials will reassess a safe timeline to lift the stay-at-home order in the future.

While most people understand they are expected to stay at home if they don’t have any emergencies or reason to be public, many people may still have questions as to what constitutes an essential business or service, or what penalties can be imposed upon those who don’t follow the public safety order.

Consequences of Not Staying at Home and Defying the Governor’s Orders

You may have seen news reports of people gathering in public to protest the stay-at-home orders. More than 200 protestors gathered at Huntington Beach for a “March for Freedom” demonstration.

The Huntington Beach Police Department notes the gathering was a direct violation of the order and that it still no OK to gather in a group. “After all the work we have put in thus far to comply with the State order, we do not want to see a resurgence of the disease,” the police posted on Facebook.

Huntington Beach police could have punished protestors under Government Code section 8665, which Newsom cited in this order. The code, which states that anyone who “refuses or willfully neglects” the order can be fined up to $1,000 and/or imprisoned for up to six months. These are extreme punishments however, as the governor believes most people will follow the order due to social pressure.

Businesses that are not considered essential however could face stiff penalties for remaining open and encouraging people to gather in public.

Businesses and Activities Considered Essential Under the Order

Specific businesses and professions are considered “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” by the State Public Health Officer. These businesses and professions are deemed necessary to protect California communities, and are considered essential for public health and safety.

Health care workers such as doctors, physicians, dentists, and psychologists are considered essential workers. By extension, any manufacturers, technicians, logistics and warehouse operators who are part of the creation and distribution of medical supplies are also considered essential workers. The State Public Health Officer broadly defines all workers involved in some form of health care or public health profession.

Other essential workers in California include:

  • Emergency service personnel including police officers, fire fighters, EMT, search and rescue teams, hazardous material responders, and county workers responding to abuse and neglect of children, elders and dependent adults.
  • Public works professionals such as water way workers, plumbers, construction workers, electricians, exterminators, garbage collectors, and other service workers who are necessary for sanitation and safety measures.
  • Workers involved in grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retail stores that sell food and beverages. Farm workers are also permitted to continue with their work. Restaurants are not allowed to have sit down services however, they can deliver food and prepare meals for takeout.
  • Workers who maintain and ensure the generation and transmission of electric power like utility workers, electricians, and engineers are covered under essential workers. Those who work in petroleum, natural gas and other forms of energy that are used heavily in our society are also protected from the stay-at-home order.
  • Transportation employees such as aviation workers, maritime workers, public transit employees like bus drivers are considered essential.

California defines other similar professions as essential. Basically, if you work in a job that is needed to ensure our society runs and people are kept safe, your profession is most likely considered essential.

Businesses that are not considered essential but continue to operate are subject to criminal charges. In early May, the Los Angeles police officers filed at least 37 complaints against businesses that have not compiled with the Los Angeles city stay-at-home orders.

California Looting Laws During a Declared State of Emergency

Californians may not be aware of it but penalties for stealing charges during a state of emergency are more severe than normal. Known as felony looting, those charged with theft during a state of emergency are usually charged with second-degree burglary or grand theft. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and the Judicial Council also agreed to the following changes during the stay-at-home order:

  • The deadline for defendants charged with a felony has been extended from 48 hours up to 7 days
  • The deadline to hold a preliminary hearing for defendants who invoke their right to a speedy trial has been extended from 10 days to 30 days
  • A defendant charged with a misdemeanor can be held for 30 to 60 days, after he or she is held to answer or indicted. Defendants in the same situation but charged with a felony can be held from 60 to 90 days.

If you are charged with a crime during the state of emergency, you should expect to be detained longer than usual. Retaining an experienced attorney may be one of your best options when it comes to ensuring you are given a fair and speedy trial.

Attorney for COVID-19 and Stay-at-Home Order Crimes in Ventura, California

Whether you’re accused of breaking the stay-at-home order, operating your business when it was deemed nonessential, or facing felony looting charges, you will need a knowledgeable attorney, especially during these uncertain times. As laws and rules are being amended to ensure maximum safety for the public, it is important that constitutional rights are recognized in the court of law.

Jay Leiderman Law represents clients in Ventura and the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. Call (805)654-0200 to learn what Jay Leiderman can do for your case.

Time is of the essence when it comes to defending yourself during the stay-at-home order and the state of emergency. Don’t leave your fate to public defenders and judges who may misunderstand the new temporary rules. Jay Leiderman has the experience and skill to build a credible defense for your case. Contact him today.