Those who willfully violate emergency executive orders and directives of Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. and Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion during the declared state of emergency could face criminal consequences, Attorney General Denise George said in a statement issued Monday.
Penalties can include arrest and prosecution.
“These executive orders carry the weight of law and must be obeyed,” George said.
According to George, the commissioner of Health, as the designated incident commander, has the power and authority to enforce health regulations providing for quarantine, isolation and other appropriate measures.
People known to have the virus who willfully violate the directives as determined by the Health commissioner can be criminally charged under Title 14 of the V.I. Code, according to George.
Title 14, subsection 886, states “[w]hoever willfully exposes himself or another afflicted with any contagious or infectious disease in any public place or thoroughfare … shall be fined not more than $200 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.”
During this emergency, all territorial peace officers have been deputized and are operating under the direction of both the governor and the incident commander. Title 14, subsection 883 of the V.I. Code states, in part, “Whoever disobeys the lawful orders of any police officer… shall be fined not more than $200 or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.”
“Orders or commands to individuals or business owners given by peace officers relating to the containment of COVID-19 shall be considered orders given directly by either the governor or the commissioner of Health,” George said. “They must be strictly obeyed.”
Also, any business operating outside of the requirements imposed by the executive orders may face administrative fines imposed by the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, as well as revocation of their business license.
George said while the governor’s executive orders certainly impact the lives of every Virgin Islander, she said it must be remembered that their purpose is to protect the health, safety and well-being of every person throughout the territory.
“It is essentially a matter of life and death. Strict adherence to the dictates of the governor’s executive orders and directives of the Virgin Islands Health commissioner is mandatory,” she said. “If every individual and business throughout the territory complies, this horrific pandemic may speedily pass so that life may return to normal in our community.”