Stay-at-home order doesn't mean random police stops

Posted at 5:18 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 19:27:46-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Tex. — All of Nueces County is counting down to 11:59 tonight.

That’s when County Judge Barbara Canales’ stay-at-home order takes effect. Under the order, residents are required to stay at home, and non-essential businesses close.

But how will law enforcement be able to tell who’s essential?

“This stay-at-home order does not create a criminal enforcement environment,” said Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper.

Sheriff Hooper says the order doesn’t give law enforcement the power to stop people for no reason. Civil rights advocates are encouraged by the message from county leaders.

“Right now as it’s being implemented, I think they’re going about it legitimately and I think they’re going about it logically as well,” said Corpus Christi attorney Chris Gale.

While officers won’t be randomly stopping people, if you happen to be pulled over for another offense, you can expect to be asked why you’re out.

“If it doesn’t fall in place with the stay at home order, the direction will be to adhere to the stay at home order,” said Hooper.

Officers will start by issuing warnings. If that doesn’t work, first offenses carry up to a $500 fine, $1,000 for repeat offenses and up to six months in jail.

“We have to remember this is a public health issue, not a criminal issue,” said Hooper.

The order does allows people to go outside, something Sheriff Hooper agrees with, as long as people are responsible.

“If and when we find ourselves looking at a situation that is in clear violation of this stay at home order, we will deal with it,” said Hooper.