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Penalties for Violating the Governor's Business Closure Order

On March 19, 2020, Governor Wolf and Dr. Levine, Secretary of the Department of Health, issued nearly identical Orders, mandating that all Non-Life-Sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania shut down physical operations.  With the Orders, the Governor issued a list of Life-Sustaining and Non-Life-Sustaining business categories, which has already been amended twice.  As of Monday, March 23, 2020 at 8:00 a.m., the Orders are being enforced across Pennsylvania.

The Governor has issued guidance for local Health Department and law enforcement officials, charged with being the “boots on the ground” in enforcing the Orders.  That guidance is linked below in this alert.  The Governor’s guidance cites to Department of Health regulations, the Disease Control Law of 1955, the Liquor Code (which only applies to restaurants or other licensed businesses), and the Crimes Code.  Under the provisions cited to, the following civil and criminal penalties are possible:

Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955

  • A fine of $25-300, plus court costs, and in default of payment, up to 30 days in county jail;

Administrative Code

  • A fine of $10-50, and in default of payment, 30 days in jail;

The Liquor Code

  • Temporary closure of all licensed places in a municipality by emergency order of the Governor;
  • A possible fine, or suspension or revocation of a liquor license;
  • A possible misdemeanor conviction, with a fine of $100-500 and jail of one to three months for a first offense, with escalating penalties for a subsequent offense;

The Crimes Code

  • For obstructing administration of law or other governmental function, a second degree misdemeanor.

The Governor’s guidance to law enforcement states that enforcement should be progressive, beginning with a warning, and should be consistent across the Commonwealth.  Furthermore, the guidance prioritizes enforcement against businesses where people congregate.  However, discretion is granted to local enforcement authorities to use their “best judgment” in implementing the enforcement protocols. 

Pursuant to the Governor’s Order, our office is now closed, but MacDonald Illig attorneys are working remotely, available by e-mail or cell phone at any time to help you with any of your legal needs, including complying with the Governor’s Order or seeking an exemption thereto.