NC Sheriffs Association on Mandates Enforcement: Officers ‘Have No Way of Knowing, No Articulable or Reasonable Suspicion to Stop Citizens’ for Curfew, Masks

RALEIGH – Is someone really going to break up your crowded Christmas dinner? Will you get pulled over for being out past curfew? What happens when you ‘get caught’ not wearing a mask?

Unfortunately, these are the questions on many people’s minds this holiday season. Governor Roy Cooper has gone mad with mandates to pretend he’s slowing the spread of coronavirus; masks required everywhere, by nearly everyone; gathering limits pegged at 10; a statewide curfew of 10:00 PM; and stranglehold on how businesses can operate, if at all.

The enforcement of the orders, though, is an altogether different matter. As it turns out, micromanaging citizens lives and allowances is difficult to implement unless you have local muscle to literally force compliance. That’s why Cooper has been begging local governments and law enforcement agencies to step up enforcement and give citations to violators.

So what does law enforcement think of it all, and are they really looking to target people for being out at 10:30 PM, for example? According to Eddie Caldwell, General Counsel for the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association, not quite.

Caldwell told WECT6 that, while each office or department decides how to affect enforcement, his agency and office aims to provide clear legal information with which they can make those decisions. As far as the law:

“Under the law, an officer would have to have an articulable and reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was violating the law. Certainly, someone driving down the highway with no other information or evidence available […] that would not rise to the level by itself to an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the person was violating the law.”

“When folks see people without a mask or see them out after the curfew time, they immediately jump to the conclusion that that person is violating the governor’s executive order,” said Caldwell. “The person might be, and the person might not be. But the law enforcement officer has no way of knowing and has no articulable and reasonable suspicion to stop the citizen absent some other evidence, so it is a complicated issue.”

So you’re not likely to have any law enforcement writing you a ticket for not masking up at Christmas, or pressed for your papers because you’re out at night. The men and women of law enforcement are rightfully preoccupied with enforcing duly passed laws, and hardly want to be questioning every person out past curfew, or responding to every Karen complaint on someone removing their mask.

The rest of us, too, are intent on living our lives as normally as possible regardless of Roy Cooper’s commands for how we do so.

But while enforcement on individuals is complicated, it is less so with businesses subject to restrictions. Those business owners struggling to make ends meet are the easiest targets, and therefore get the brunt of enforcement. Not to mention that being compliant with all of the arbitrary restrictions is hard enough on its own.

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