Will I Go to Jail If I Don’t Wear a Mask in NJ?

By Davis Law Firm | September 9, 2020

A new law proposed in the New Jersey legislature could make it a crime to refuse to wear a face covering in a commercial establishment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Proposed Face Covering Law

New Jersey State Assembly members Ralph Caputo and Valeri Vainieri introduced a bill that would add criminal penalties for those people who violate Governor Phil Murphy’s order requiring people to wear face coverings when shopping indoors. Assemblyman Caputo argued that adding a criminal penalty to the Governor’s order was necessary to emphasize the fact that mask requirements are not optional.

If passed, the law would make it a crime for any individual to enter a store without a mask or face covering and refuse to put one on when requested where the store has a posted mask requirement. The law would come into effect immediately if passed and remain in effect for the duration of the state of emergency announced by Governor Murphy’s Executive Order No. 103.

Penalties for Conviction under the Proposed Law

The proposed law would make refusing to wear a mask or face covering in a store that has a posted mask requirement a petty disorderly persons offense. Conviction under the proposed law could result in a maximum sentence of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.

Other Potential Criminal Offenses for Not Wearing a Mask

Although the proposed law is still being debated by the legislature and thus refusing to wear a mask is still not a crime, individuals across New Jersey who have refused to wear masks or face coverings inside commercial establishments have been arrested for committing other crimes in connection with their refusal to wear a mask:

  • Physical assaults on store employees who confront customers who refuse to wear masks in the store
  • Coughing or spitting on individuals while claiming to be infected with COVID-19
  • Terroristic threats against store employees or commercial establishments that attempt to enforce mask requirements
  • Trespassing, when customers refuse to leave commercial establishments after being asked to by employees 
  • Resisting arrest and/or assaulting police officers who respond to calls about customers refusing to wear face coverings or leave an establishment when asked to do so

Although many of these kinds of incidents constitute disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses that, at most, would lead to a sentence of a month to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500 to $1000, some criminal offenses committed by individuals in New Jersey who refused to put on face coverings while in commercial establishments have resulted in felony charges, such as assaulting police officers who respond to the scene and who try to arrest those individuals for having committed other criminal offenses such as trespassing. To avoid getting into a confrontation with law enforcement that may lead to your arrest, you should always put on a mask or face covering if asked to do so by the employees of a store or other commercial establishment, or leave the establishment if you do not wish to wear a face covering or if you are asked to do so by employees.

Contact an Experienced Hamilton Township Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Face Coverings Charges in New Jersey

Were you arrested or charged with not wearing a face covering or mask in New Jersey? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at The Davis Law Firm, LLC have successfully represented clients charged with not wearing a mask/face covering in East Windsor, West Windsor, Hopewell, Robbinsville, and throughout New Jersey. Call 609-587-9100 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 2653 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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