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On Thursday November 19, a new COVID-19 health order took effect requiring Ohioans to stay at home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The order lasts until December 10, with exemptions for Constitutionally-protected activities and activities deemed “essential.” Local law enforcement officials have expressed mixed reactions about enforcing the curfew. The Muskingum County Sheriff and Zanesville Police are not expecting to be randomly stopping people who are out during curfew hours. 

As Ohio enters the winter months amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, residents are bracing for the unknown. While the current health order is not a lockdown, it does have legal implications for Ohioans. Graham Law will keep you updated on the latest developments—and how they affect you—as they unfold. Our attorneys are always available to answer your questions and defend your rights. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Ohio’s Latest COVID-19 Restrictions

What activities are exempted from the COVID-19 curfew? 

The Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health signed the “stay at home tonight” order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state. According to the order, a stronger response is needed to “minimize the risk of major shutdowns and limitations” and “minimize the impact on Ohio’s healthcare and hospital capacity.” It asks people to stay home at night, with the following activities exempted: 

  • Religious observances and speech protected by the First Amendment (including media activities)
  • Tasks essential to health and safety, such as seeking emergency services, obtaining medical supplies, or visiting a doctor
  • Obtaining necessary supplies and services, such as groceries, carry-out food, and cleaning supplies
  • Necessary social services, such as child care, addiction and mental health services, senior care, and vocational programs
  • Employment, including volunteer work
  • Caring for and transporting family members, friends, and pets
  • Performing and accessing government services, including emergency services and law enforcement

Are businesses closed? 

The order focuses on the behavior of individuals. It does not specify that businesses have to close during curfew hours, although businesses such as casinos that do not support essential activities may close early as a result. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants will stay open, and people can shop and pick up items past 10:00 p.m. Drive-thru, carry-out, and food delivery is permitted, but in person dining and drinking are not allowed after 10 p.m.

Can I drive with takeout alcohol? 

To-go services have helped many restaurants and bars survive the pandemic. Recognizing the stress they are under, earlier in the pandemic Ohio enacted a law that makes to-go alcohol sales permanent, with conditions. Ohio drivers wondering how the new law jives with the state’s open container laws can rest easy. You are allowed to have sealed containers of alcohol in the vehicle with you. You don’t even have to put them in in the back seat or trunk, explains NBC4. Placing an unopened container in the cupholder next to you is fine, however, consuming alcohol during transportation is still illegal. And of course, driving while intoxicated is a crime in Ohio. 

Is there a punishment for violating the curfew? 

The penalty for violating the curfew is the same as for violating other health orders. Those out during curfew hours could face a second-degree misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. 

How will the order be enforced? 

DeWine said at a press conference that he does not expect the order to be strictly enforced, according to the Zanesville Times Recorder. But he also said that if people are out after 10:00 p.m., law enforcement will have cause to approach them about a possible curfew violation. 

Local law enforcement agencies are taking different approaches. Sheriff Jim Neil of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said violators will receive a verbal warning, and those who don’t comply with the warning will be cited for a misdemeanor. The Columbus Division of Police told ABC 6 that while they will not actively enforce the curfew, officers who witness a “flagrant curfew violation” will be issued a summons for a court appearance. 

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz does not anticipate a hard law enforcement approach. “We’re not trying to violate anybody’s rights. We know that everybody has their rights to be out,” Lutz told the Times Recorder. “We’re not going to be out there making random stops on our citizens to find out what they’re doing.” Zanesville police chief Tony Coury said his department would follow the sheriff’s approach and focus on large congregations of people, not individuals, out after curfew. 

Graham Law has served the legal needs of our Southeastern Ohio communities for nearly 100 years. We remain committed to our clients during this ongoing health emergency while observing safety protocols. You can read past legal articles about COVID-19 here. Please reach out and schedule a free consultation regarding any legal question or problem. Call us at 1-800-621-8585 or Contact Us

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