AG Hunter clarifies law enforcement action pertaining to Gov. Stitt’s order for nonessential businesses to close

Coronavirus
Mike Hunter

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a news release Thursday to clarify law enforcement actions related to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order for nonessential businesses to close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Stitt issued restrictions on Tuesday, March 24, ordering all nonessential businesses located in counties affected by coronavirus to close at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, March 25 and remain closed until April 14.

Stitt said nonessential businesses include places that have a social gathering aspect, including bars, gyms and massage parlors.

“The guidelines in the governor’s executive order call for Oklahomans to act in the best interest of their fellow citizens,” Hunter said. “What we are calling on more than anything, is for Oklahomans to be good citizens, good neighbors and comply with the governor’s executive order, as well as the ordinances of local governments, to protect one another from this deadly illness.​”

Law enforcement officers are advised to first seek compliance when a business is found to be in violation of the executive order.

“While a violation of an executive order can be a misdemeanor, law enforcement officers are counseled to inform and persuade to effect compliance when confronted with violations, emphasizing the gravity of the ongoing public health emergency we are experiencing,” Hunter said. “This is not intended to undercut law enforcement’s ability to make decisions based on their training, discretion and the facts of any given situation. Rather, this statement is provided to support and enable law enforcement to make sound, fact based decisions given the circumstances while appropriately balancing the interests of public safety and public health.”

Hunter provided the following facts concerning Stitt’s executive order:

  • It does not impose martial law;
  • Individuals can still be charged with a misdemeanor. However, it is up to law enforcement’s discretion on who does or does not need to be arrested for violating the executive order or another misdemeanor crime;
  • The guidelines in the governor’s executive order call for Oklahomans to do what is in the best interest of the public health of their fellow citizens; and
  • More resources and information can be found at the Oklahoma Department of Health’s website, here: https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/.

Hunter stressed the importance of abiding by the executive order during this time when the coronavirus pandemic is putting lives in jeopardy.

“We are in an unprecedented time. The Coronavirus has and will continue to cause profound disruptions in everyone’s lives and livelihoods and we are all painfully aware of those who have become ill or tragically, have died. But rest assured, by following the advice of our state, municipal, county and federal leaders, and complying with the measures laid out in the governor’s executive order, we will save lives,” Hunter said.

The United States Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency listed the following industries and its workers as essential to maintaining the nation’s infrastructure during a national emergency:

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