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What Are My Rights Regarding Forced Quarantine by State and Federal Government?

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Posted on April 20, 2020 2:00 PM EST

While everyone is sitting at home, we are sure people question under what authority does the government have to order the isolation and quarantine of the general public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines where these authorities arise. Both the state and the federal government have been given the authority to protect the general public by preventing exposure to individuals who may have or actually have a communicable disease. These authorities have the right to order isolation or quarantine. Isolation is defined as separating sick people who have a contagious disease from individuals who are not sick. Quarantine is defined as the separation and restriction of movements of individuals who have been exposed to the disease to determine if they have been indeed infected.

Sick Patient in Isolation Due to Covid-19
The state in which you reside can order isolation and quarantine based on the "police powers" derived from state constitutions. States have the right to take actions that affect its citizens for the benefit of society. This right gives the states the authority to enforce isolation and quarantine within their borders. The laws will vary from state to state. In most states, violating a quarantine order is a misdemeanor. The federal government has the authority to issue these orders based on the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Federal Statutes allow the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to take whatever measures are necessary to prevent the entry and spread of contagious diseases from foreign countries to the United States. Federal isolation and quarantine orders are issued by the president pursuant to the executive order and carried out by the CDC.

Federal Statues Allow The Secretary of Health and Human Services To Take the Necessary Measures
The CDC has extensive powers to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. They are authorized to detain and examine individuals arriving from foreign countries or between states who exhibit symptoms of communicable disease. Part of the CDC's routine is to monitor the border crossings and U.S. ports of entry looking for signs of communicable disease. At ports or airports, members of the CDC can detain passengers that are reported to be ill. These rules also apply to crew members, pilots of an airplane, or captains of a ship.

People Breaking Quarantine Order
Often times there is a conflict between the state and the federal government. While both sets of laws apply and conflicts exist, federal laws always trump state laws. Violation of a federal quarantine order is punishable by prison and fines. While it appears that many of these orders are not being followed, why take the chance. Stay home and be safe. While an arrest is unlikely, the criminal defense lawyers at DMT are still working hard to protect their clients' rights in this chaotic time. Please feel free to call us at (305) 444-0030 as we are still at the helm and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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