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Illinois business owners who defy stay-at-home order can now be criminally charged

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and state officials speak at a press conference in Chicago on April 21, 2020. | Photo: Illinois Information Service.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has quietly filed a new emergency rule that allows Illinois business owners to be criminally charged if they defy his stay-at-home orders by opening.

The Pritzker administration filed the temporary emergency rule, which is valid for up to 150 days, on Friday and it went into effect immediately.

The rule will be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Wednesday. In order to block it the committee would need eight out of its 12 members to vote against it.

The changes were filed to Illinois Department of Public Health laws in a section titled “Pandemic or Epidemic Respiratory Disease — Emergency Provisions.”

It says that businesses that serve food or beverages cannot serve dine-in customers, businesses that offer wellness services such as gyms cannot be open to the public, and businesses that offer cosmetology services like barbers and salons cannot on-site services during a pandemic or epidemic.

Anyone who violates the rule can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine between $75 and $2,500.

Ann Spillane, who is Pritzker’s top attorney, told WTTW News that there’s no threat of jail time and believes it’s a “less dramatic” step than some other alternatives.

She said that the charge is “very mild, like a traffic ticket” and insisted nobody would get handcuffed or arrested, WTTW reported.

State Rep. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park, issued an outspoken statement on Saturday objecting to the new rule.

“We have a dictator Governor who is weaponizing our Department of Public Health to treat our citizens like criminals. The pure irony lies in the fact that the Governor is doing this at the same time that he is commuting sentences for murderers and rapists,”

“People are resisting because they view the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan, and his general approach to the COVID-19 health crisis, as a hodgepodge of arbitrary rules and restrictions placed on citizens and businesses by a hypocritical leader,” Cabello said.

When Pritzker initially put his stay-at-home order in place in March, he took a relaxed position when it came to enforcement of his order.

Residents, businesses and counties throughout Illinois have began pushing back against Pritzker’s orders as he has seen a number of lawsuits and protests against him.


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