Indiana governor drops mask violator penalty after criticism

AP FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2020 file photo, Gov. Eric Holcomb wears a mask in Kokomo, Ind.

The decision comes after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had said Wednesday in announcing the mask requirement that violators could face a misdemeanor charge, while stating that the “mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”

Posted: Jul 24, 2020 5:09 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor dropped a planned criminal penalty from the statewide face mask mandate that he signed Friday after objections from some law enforcement officials and conservative legislators.

The decision comes after Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb had said Wednesday in announcing the mask requirement that violators could face a misdemeanor charge, while stating that the “mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”


Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an advisory opinion Wednesday, July 22 just hours after GOP Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the mask order taking effect Monday, July 27 to help slow the coronavirus spread.

The executive order on the mask mandate, however, does not mention penalties and describes the move as a step to protect health during the coronavirus outbreak and help ensure that businesses remain open while allowing schools to reopen and operate safely.

“State and local health departments shall be responsible for enforcing compliance through education about the importance of wearing face coverings and dispelling myths and misconceptions about the use and/or benefits for the requirement,” the order said.

State Attorney General Curtis Hill, who is also a Republican, issued a non-binding opinion Wednesday night, saying Holcomb would be overstepping his authority and that only the Legislature could make violations a criminal offense. That opinion was in response to questions from five Republican state senators regarding Holcomb’s legal power.

The Indiana Senate’s leader praised Holcomb’s decision to drop the possible misdemeanor offense, which could have carried penalties of up to $1,000 in fines and a maximum 180 days in jail.

“Senate Republicans have been in close contact with the governor since his announcement of the new mask mandate earlier this week,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray of Martinsville. “We are very pleased to see that the executive order he signed today does not include a criminal penalty for non-compliance.”

The governor’s office didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment about Holcomb’s decision.

Some conservative lawmakers criticized Holcomb’s mandate announcement for using the state’s emergency law to sidestep the Legislature, which hasn’t met since adjourning this year’s session in March just before widespread coronavirus precautions began.

Several of the state’s police chiefs and sheriffs had indicated they wouldn’t have officers respond solely to calls about face mask violators. Some said they considered Holcomb’s proposed mandate unconstitutional.

The sheriff in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, said he agreed with the attorney general’s opinion that only the Legislature could make a face mask violation illegal.

“Regardless of any opinion of masks or their impact on COVID-19 good or bad, we must not deviate from the documents which protect our freedoms and liberties,” said Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush, a Republican. “We must guard them at all costs. The men and women of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing the mask mandate and will consider it null and void.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 68433

Reported Deaths: 2980
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion14863719
Lake7101271
Elkhart459777
Allen3635158
St. Joseph315479
Hamilton2513104
Cass17519
Hendricks1750105
Vanderburgh172612
Johnson1652118
Porter119539
Tippecanoe110311
Clark108145
Madison84765
LaPorte83829
Kosciusko81912
Howard81065
Bartholomew74347
Marshall74222
Floyd69444
Monroe68630
Delaware63852
Noble63728
Boone63546
Dubois62612
Hancock62337
Jackson5524
LaGrange54210
Warrick51630
Shelby51126
Grant49629
Vigo47410
Dearborn46528
Morgan42532
Henry36118
Clinton3573
White34710
Montgomery34321
Lawrence32827
Wayne3179
Decatur31432
Harrison29422
Miami2582
Scott25010
Daviess24619
Greene23934
Franklin22410
DeKalb2224
Putnam2228
Jennings21012
Jasper2082
Gibson2004
Steuben2003
Ripley1887
Perry17212
Starke1657
Orange16424
Wabash1613
Posey1580
Fayette1557
Jefferson1492
Whitley1486
Fulton1462
Carroll1452
Wells1342
Knox1310
Huntington1183
Washington1161
Spencer1143
Newton11010
Tipton1075
Randolph1034
Clay975
Jay820
Adams812
Rush794
Owen781
Sullivan761
Pulaski721
Brown701
Fountain632
Benton600
Blackford532
Ohio514
Pike460
Parke451
Switzerland430
Crawford420
Martin420
Vermillion380
Union320
Warren191
Unassigned0200

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 93963

Reported Deaths: 3539
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17254514
Cuyahoga12753477
Hamilton9160248
Lucas4944318
Montgomery405778
Summit3294217
Marion288444
Butler271459
Mahoning2411253
Pickaway235742
Stark1690132
Lorain163476
Warren163435
Columbiana158260
Trumbull1433103
Fairfield125425
Delaware120618
Licking112543
Clark108613
Lake104336
Wood92458
Clermont85511
Medina83533
Miami76937
Tuscarawas74713
Portage71760
Allen65442
Greene62611
Belmont58926
Richland54012
Ashtabula53945
Mercer53513
Geauga53143
Erie52427
Wayne49958
Ross4014
Huron3764
Ottawa35925
Athens3451
Madison33310
Sandusky33217
Holmes3226
Darke32127
Hancock3202
Auglaize2225
Lawrence2200
Union2161
Jefferson2063
Washington19722
Putnam19217
Scioto1881
Coshocton1866
Muskingum1811
Knox1692
Crawford1685
Preble1662
Seneca1613
Shelby1604
Morrow1582
Hardin15012
Clinton1486
Fulton1401
Champaign1381
Ashland1333
Highland1321
Defiance1294
Williams1243
Logan1231
Wyandot1207
Brown1121
Guernsey1117
Hocking1119
Carroll1085
Henry1061
Perry1062
Fayette970
Monroe9118
Van Wert691
Jackson670
Pike660
Paulding610
Gallia581
Adams532
Vinton302
Meigs250
Harrison201
Morgan200
Noble170
Unassigned00
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