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No ‘free pass’ on crime, violating executive orders during coronavirus crisis, Carroll County state’s attorney says

While Baltimore police won’t be making low-level arrests and the city’s state’s attorney ordered her staff to dismiss certain low-level criminal charges during the current coronavirus crisis, Carroll County has no plans to follow suit.

Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo made it clear in a March 19 statement from his office that his staff “stands ready to enforce and prosecute all criminal laws of Maryland, any violations of the Governor’s executive orders in response to COVID-19, and any violations of orders for quarantine and isolation should that become necessary.”

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Gov. Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency, and has issued several executive orders that prohibit gatherings and events of more than 10 people and close all restaurants, bars, fitness centers, enclosed shopping malls, movie theaters, bingo halls, and simulcast and off-track betting facilities to the public.

“Any person who knowingly and willfully violates these orders is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction is subject to imprisonment up to one year, a $5000 fine, or both,” according to the release, which goes on to say that individuals who are infected with the coronavirus, also known as the COVID-19 disease it causes, or have been exposed to it and refuse to voluntarily isolate or quarantine can be ordered to do so by the local health department. Those who violate an isolation or quarantine order could face imprisonment of up to one year, a $3,000 fine or both.

DeLeonardo was moved to announce this to the community in order to clarify some confusion based on actions taken by Baltimore City to not prosecute certain crimes, the release said.

On March 18, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby ordered her staff to dismiss pending criminal charges against anyone arrested for possessing drugs including heroin, attempted distribution of any drug, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offenses, open container violations and urinating in public, according to The Baltimore Sun. These crimes pose no risk to public safety and the defendants would be released before trial in normal times, she wrote in a memo to prosecutors. Additionally, Baltimore Police are encouraging officers to use discretion for low-level arrests to limit coronavirus exposure, department officials announced Thursday.

The Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office plans to take a different approach.

“Now more than ever is a time for law and order — there is no ‘free pass’ because there is a declared state of emergency locally, statewide and nationally," DeLeonardo is quoted as saying in the release. “I fully anticipate that everyone accepts the gravity of the situation, and the part they must play in keeping their families and neighbors safe by following the governor’s orders.

“At least in Carroll County, we will not allow this community to become a safe haven for criminals and lawbreakers seeking to capitalize on this state of emergency. We stand ready, willing and able to continue to prosecute the laws of the state, as well as any violations of Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive orders.”

At least 107 people have confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday morning, though the third Carroll case was not included in that total. The first Marylander to die from the disease was a Prince George’s County man in his 60s, Hogan announced Wednesday night.

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Anyone who thinks they or a family member might be showing coronavirus symptoms can call the Carroll County Health Department’s COVID-19 hotline, which is available 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. seven days a week at 410-876-4848, or contact their doctor. After hours, callers may leave a message or call 211. People with emergencies should continue to call 911.

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