As Michiganders continue to adjust to life under Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home-Stay Safe” Executive Order, many people have raised questions about the precise scope of that Order. Although the Order addresses some specifics with respect to when citizens can leave their home, many of the nuances have been left open to interpretation. Given that a violation of the Order is enforceable as a misdemeanor criminal offense (more on that here), this lack of clarity is particularly problematic.
One unclear aspect of the Order is the portion which permits citizens to leave their home “[t]o engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people outside the individual’s household.” With Spring rapidly approaching, and with citizens become increasingly fatigued with being trapped at home, many have been looking to take advantage of this particular exception to enjoy some of Michigan’s natural beauty. The precise scope of what is permitted, however, has caused concern for many.
It is unclear how broad “any other recreational activity” will be interpreted by law enforcement. Take fishing for example. Fishing, alone, in an isolated area, near to one’s home, is likely acceptable under the order. Fishing with 10 other people in close proximity, 9 hours away from home, most likely is not. There is not, however, any specific guidance on this issue; neither the Michigan State Police, nor the DNR, have issued any sort of official policy.
As such, Michigan’s citizens are largely in the dark with respect to what is appropriate under the Order. Potentially, some travel to participate in outdoor recreation is acceptable. But even assuming that to be the case, how far a citizen can travel to engage in outdoor recreation, and what will be considered recreation, is ultimately unclear. Given this uncertainty, Michiganders would do well to take a cautious approach when making decisions about their outdoor recreational activities.
It is important to remember that the Order is designed to prevent non-essential travel, and to limit the possible spread of the Coronavirus. Thus, travel should be kept to an absolute minimum, particularly for recreational purposes. Citizens leaving their home should have a clear justification for doing so, and that justification should correspond very clearly with an exception to the Governor’s Order. Travel and activities that fall within a grey area, where there is not a clear exception to the Governor’s Order, should not be undertaken. Individuals leaving their homes without a clear justification should be aware that they are risking criminal prosecution.
Ultimately, without any clarification to the Order available, citizens must rely on their common sense. People should think before traveling, even for permitted purposes, and should be aware that all travel creates the risk of further spreading the Coronavirus. Citizens in vulnerable populations (such as the elderly, or those with underlying health conditions) should be especially cautious.
The Order is set to expire on April 13, 2020. At time of writing, that amounts to 18 more days where citizens are being required to stay home. Given the risk posed by Coronavirus, and the growing number of cases in Michigan, it would seem prudent to put off any outdoor recreation requiring significant travel during this time. To protect fellow Michiganders, delaying any planned trips during this short period seems to be the best course of action.
As stated before, there is very little authoritative guidance on any of these issues, and none of the above should be taken as legal advice. Should more guidance become available, our team at Grewal Law PLLC will be sure to update you.
If you have been cited for a violation of the Governor’s Order, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 888-227-4770. Our criminal defense lawyers stand ready to assist you in protecting your rights.
Credit: Steve Delie
Ayanna D. Neal joined Grewal Law PLLC as an attorney after dedicating fifteen years to representing the people of the state of Michigan in prosecution for Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. Ayanna began practicing law two years prior to working as a prosecutor and handled child custody, contracts, and estate planning cases. Ayanna is a licensed domestic relations mediator and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan and Juris Doctor with a concentration in Business Transactions from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.