Gov. Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-20 on Wednesday, March 25, effective at 11:59 p.m. Friday, asking Minnesotans to stay at home through April 10 unless absolutely necessary. Order 20-20 is meant to slow the COVID-19 outbreak in our state.
The ACLU of Minnesota issued this statement and the following recommendations for current and future government enforcement in response to the crisis:
While stay-at-home orders are clearly an enormous and almost unprecedented curtailment of our individual civil liberties, measures like this have overwhelming support from public health experts trying to protect our collective well-being during this unparalleled crisis.
The ACLU of Minnesota understands and supports the need to protect public health, while also preserving and defending our precious civil liberties. We are monitoring this and any forthcoming orders and enforcement related to COVID-19 for potential civil liberties violations. To ensure civil liberties are protected, we make these recommendations:
- All steps taken by the government during this crisis must be scientifically justified and no more intrusive upon civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
- Stay-at-home policies must not be enforced primarily through criminal charges or arrests. We appreciate that Gov. Walz is relying on voluntary compliance to accomplish the stay-at-home order, and we urge him to continue to do everything in his power to keep compliance voluntary. If criminal penalties do become necessary, they should be handled through citations rather than custodial arrest. Courts should take into account people’s ability to pay when it comes time to deal with those citations.
- Order 20-20 states that violations could be punishable as misdemeanors, but is silent on enforcement, and does not include a separate law enforcement order. Other states with similar orders are reporting enforcement that varies by county. Such disparate enforcement tends to fall disproportionately on marginalized communities of color that are already over-policed and under-resourced. Should enforcement become necessary, we urge the Governor to closely monitor it to ensure it is not discriminatory.
- Stay-at-home policies must make every effort to protect the rights of people who are ill or at greater risk of becoming ill, even during this public health emergency. This includes the due process right to appeal quarantine and the right to legal counsel.
- We appreciate that the current order protects people who are currently homeless in Minnesota from activities such as the dismantling of homeless encampments. We urge that any future orders continue showing this compassion for our most vulnerable populations.
The ACLU of Minnesota will continue monitoring government activities, now and in the future, for potential civil liberties violations.