ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) —As the City of Abilene has officially issued a ‘Limited Shelter-in-Place’ order during this COVID-19 pandemic, some may defy these additional restrictions. But, city officials are prepared to legally fight back against this refusal to obey.
At the Monday morning meeting, city manager Robert Hanna reported a couple who was experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 were refusing to stay home. Hanna followed that report saying he was he will take additional precautions against those who do not comply.
“I can tell you, with all seriousness, I will pursue every legal option available to me to make sure you stay home,” said Hanna. “That could mean APD sitting in front of your house. It could include ankle monitoring to know where your location is at all times.This is a serious thing.”
Hanna later clarified this statement.
“We can’t just grab them and stick an ankle monitor on them, right?” said Hanna. “There’s a legal process that we are required to do, but we intend to do that.”
So, what does this legal process entail? David Slayton is the administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration.
“Several weeks ago, we began looking at this issue and preparing for it,” Slayton said. “If the person chooses not to comply with that control order issued by the public health authorities, then either the county attorney the municipal attorney, the district attorney or the Texas attorney general can go to court and ask for an order to enforce that controlled order.”
According to the Texas Court Administration, there has been only one court case involving refusal to comply with such ordinances this past week. But, so far, most folks in the state of Texas are following these mandates. Slayton pointed out that, because many of these mandates in Texas are considered official ordinances, disregarding the City’s issuance is a crime, more specifically, a Class B Misdemeanor.
As an example, Slayton described what could happen involving the two people with symptoms of COVID-19 in Abilene who are refusing to stay home.
“In this case the judge would basically hear about the situation and decide whether not to enter that order,” said Slayton. “The order that was actually issued if a judge were to do that, is an order of protective custody. And, so in that instance basically that’s where law enforcement or others may be involved in actually enforcing that order that’s been issued by the public health authority.”
Slaytons said the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court appointed 31 judges across the state who are trained to handle these legal cases, including Taylor County’s Judge Wheeler. And, with the fluid situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, two of the 31 appointed judges take an on-call shift each night to handle emergency cases.
“They can have the emergency matter heard; it could be 2 o’clock in the morning,” said Slayton. “The judge might issue that order immediately.”
But, just like any legal case the court is required to follow due process, allowing those who are not following the city’s orders to hire an attorney or be appointed an attorney to make their case.
Hanna said although these legal actions are always a possibility, they will only apply to those who don’t follow the order.
“That’s not something that’s going to happen to everybody,” said Hanna. It’s only going to happen to those people that are required to quarantine and choose not to. And, they’re irresponsible in their behavior.”
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