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Understanding the Boca Raton, FL Stay Home Stay Safe COVID-19 Order

March 28, 2020

 

 

As you are likely aware, if you are a Boca Raton, Florida resident, the Boca City Manager issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Order yesterday on March 26, 2020 to go into effect at 12:01 AM on Saturday, March 28, 2020. The Order is set to remain in effect as long as the local state of emergency is in effect, as amended and extended. The intention of the Order is stated therein, “WHEREAS, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Florida State Department of Health (FDOH) recommend implementation of community mitigation strategies to curtail the spread of the virus, including cancellation of large gathering and social distancing between persons in smaller gatherings; and WHEREAS, the spread of the virus may be slowed by requiring that persons of all age groups, including seniors age 65 and older and persons with chronic health conditions, stay home and stay safe unless conducting essential activities or providing essential services…”

 

Where Does the City of Boca Raton Derive Its Authority to Close Businesses and Tell My Family and I to Stay Home Until the State of Emergency is Over?

 

It is true that pursuant to the Order you’re basically required to remain in your home outside the limited exceptions provided in the Order for things like, but not limited to buying groceries, walking your dog, outdoor exercise, putting gas in your car and performing work in an essential profession like healthcare. While the Order is fairly restrictive, it appears on its face to be lawful. The City of Boca Raton declared a State of Local Emergency in response to COVID-19, pursuant to Resolution Number 36-2020 on March 16, 2020 as authorized by Fla. Stat. § 252.38(3)(a)(5).

 

Authority From the Florida Legislature

 

According to Fla. Stat. § 252.46(1) gives broad authority to counties and municipalities of Florida to make orders and rules as are necessary for emergency management purposes. Fla. Stat. § 252.46(2) states that all orders issued by counties and municipalities for emergency management purposes shall have the full force and effect of law after adoption.

 

Authority From the Code of Ordinances of Boca Raton, Florida

 

Article 1, Section 2-2(1) of the Code of Ordinances of Boca states, “Pursuant to Chapter 252, Florida Statutes, which authorizes the waiver of procedures and formalities otherwise required of a political subdivision in the event of a state of emergency and allows whatever action is necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of a community when a quorum of the city council is unable to meet, the mayor, or deputy mayor in his absence, or the city manager, or assistant city manager is empowered to declare a local state of emergency whenever he shall determine that a natural or manmade disaster or emergency has occurred, or that the occurrence or threat of one is imminent and requires immediate and expeditious action.” In this event, the city manager of Boca signed the order taking action. While the order does not state that a quorum of the city council was unable to meet, they likely didn’t meet before the passage of the Order due to their efforts to engage in social distancing and isolating in their homes. Like Fla. Stat. § 252.46(1), this section of the Code of Ordinances of Boca vests fairly broad authority in city officials to issue orders like the present Order.

 

How Long Can The Restrictions of The Order Remain in Place?

 

Fla. Stat. § 252.38(3)(a)(5) states that the duration of each state of emergency declared locally is limited to 7 days. It states that such states of emergency may be extended as necessary in 7-day increments. The City of Boca Raton declared a State of Local Emergency resulting from COVID-19 on March 16, 2020, which the City Manager extended on March 23, 2020. While this is a short period of time, there will likely be at least one more extension of the State of Emergency if not more as it does not presently look like the COVID-19 virus is going away anytime soon. 

 

What Can Happen If I Get Caught Violating the Order?

 

The Order states, “The provisions of this Emergency Order may be enforced within the corporate limits of the City of Boca Raton by the Police Services Department, as the City’s law enforcement agency, and all code enforcement officials. Any violation of any rule or regulation set forth herein shall be punishable as provided by law and the Code of Ordinances of the City of Boca Raton.” Fla. Stat. § 252.47 states, “The law enforcement authorities of the state and the political subdivisions thereof shall enforce the orders and rules issued pursuant to ss. 252.31-252.90.” Fla. Stat. § 252.50 states, “Any person violating any provision of ss. 252.32-252.90 or any rule or order made pursuant to ss. 252.31-252.90 is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.” The relevant statutes state that the maximum penalty for a second-degree misdemeanor is a $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

 

Key Sections of the Boca Stay at Home Stay Safe Order

 

The Order states that people are permitted to leave their homes for things such as but not limited to purchasing groceries and food from restaurants that is ordered to-go, seeking medical and dental care, seeking care from mental health professionals, getting gas, going to banks, getting outdoor exercise, going to work in an essential business or profession and caring for friends, family members or pets in another household. People are required to follow all U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Florida Department of Health (FDOH) recommendations such as maintaining 6 feet apart social distancing from other people, when leaving their homes. Essential businesses include but are not limited to healthcare professionals, dentists, urgent care centers, mental health professionals, medical cannabis facilities, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, food banks, media services, gas stations, auto-supply stores, auto-repair facilities, banks, insurance firms, hardware stores, contractors and other tradesmen, building management and maintenance, home security firms, businesses primarily providing mailing, logistics, pick-up and shipping services, including post office boxes, Laundromats, dry cleaners, restaurants to serve food by delivery or to-go, businesses that primarily supply office products needed for people to work from home, transportation services, waste management services, hotels, firearm and ammunition supply stores, and moving, storage and relocation services.

 

Contact Biazzo Law, PLLC for Assistance

 

If you are a Boca Raton resident or visitor and you have concerns regarding your legal rights during this uncertain time, contact Biazzo Law at (561) 939-6300 for a consultation today. This blog is not to be construed as legal advice.

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