Illinois Businesses Defying Governor’s Order May Face $2,500 Fine, Jail

Jail Cell
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/ Getty

Illinois businesses that reopen in defiance of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s (D) stay-at-home order may face a Class A misdemeanor charge, resulting in a fine of up to $2,500 and jail time, per the governor’s emergency filing.

On Friday, Pritzker filed an emergency rule, which his spokesperson said will serve as an “additional enforcement tool for businesses that refuse to comply with the most critical aspects of the stay-at-home order.”

Businesses, including restaurants, salons, and gyms, could now face a Class A misdemeanor charge, resulting in up to a year in jail or a fine as much as $2,500.

“Law enforcement has relied heavily on educating business owners about the order and always first discusses the regulations with business owners to urge compliance,” Jordan Abudayyeh, a spokeswoman for the governor, said.

“Only businesses that pose a serious risk to public health and refuse to comply with health regulations would be issued a citation,” she continued.

“The rule gives law enforcement a tool that may be more appropriate and less severe than closing the business altogether,” Abudayyeh added.

Ann Spillane, general counsel to Pritzker’s administration, likened the charge to a “traffic ticket.”

“Nobody’s getting arrested or handcuffed,” she assured. “But they are getting a citation where they would have to go to court.”

State Rep. Jim Durkin (R) slammed the administration’s move, deeming it “beyond the scope of the governor’s authority.”

“It will be a dark day in Illinois when we charge small businesses with a jailable crime for salvaging their livelihoods,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

All regions of Illinois remain under a stay-at-home order for May, which permits nonessential retail stores to operate via curbside pickup and delivery only. Religious gatherings are also limited to groups of ten or fewer under phase two of the governor’s five-phase plan, and personal care services and health clubs are instructed to remain closed.

Nonessential travel also remains “discouraged.”

Pritzker admitted last week that, despite his restrictions, his wife has been traveling, spending weeks at their $12.1 million equestrian estate in South Florida and visiting their farm in Wisconsin, where the state’s Supreme Court struck down Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) stay-at-home order.

“My wife and daughter were down in Florida in early March and, in fact even a little before that, and you know, they sheltered in place when the stay-at-home order came up,” he said last week.

“And they stayed there until very recently, so you know we’ll say, you know, we have a working farm. They’re there now. There are animals on that farm,” he said, adding that it is “an essential function to take care of animals at a farm”:

“A Pritzker spokeswoman later clarified that the family is at home in Chicago and have visited the farm but haven’t stayed there,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

This is not the first time Pritzker has issued threats to local leaders and business owners.

“There were leaders in the legal community this morning that spoke about the challenges that will be brought to those local law enforcement to local governments and to businesses that are open,” he said on Thursday.

“They’re putting people at risk, they’re making their communities unsafe, and they’ll be subject to liability as a result,” he added.

The warning prompted a swift response from the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, which blasted the governor’s threat as “outrageous.”

“Illinois Sheriffs have been elected by their local citizens to keep their communities safe, a trust that every sheriff and sworn law enforcement officer holds dear,” Illinois Sheriffs’ Association President Jim Kaitschuk said last week.

 “It is outrageous that the Governor is threatening retaliation against these leaders and the men and women of their offices. He is insulting heroic police officers, corrections officers and local voters,” he added.

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