|Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) will introduce legislation directing law enforcement officers to issue penalties for individuals who attend social gatherings in violation of a Governor’s executive order during a state of emergency. Under law, the penalties set for violators by executive order include up to 6 months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Last Friday night, law enforcement officers in Ewing Township broke up a party of 47 people in a small apartment, and the apartment renter was charged with violating the Governor’s emergency order against large social gatherings. This past Sunday, law enforcement officers also dispersed a group of 40 to 50 people, including children, who had gathered outside of a home in Lakewood in violation of the same order. The hosts were charged with violation of an emergency order as well as child endangerment. However, most violators of these guidelines are currently only charged if they are organizing or hosting the event; as such, no attendees were penalized in either case.
“Here’s the bottom line: If you’re selfishly breaking the rules by socializing at crowded events, you’re not only endangering yourself, but every other attendee of that event, every person who lives or works there, every person you live with, and every essential worker you might come into contact with soon afterward,” said Gopal. “Proper social distancing is essential for keeping our hospitals from being overwhelmed, and these arrogant and shortsighted gatherings are putting every one of us at risk. As Governor Murphy put it, New Jersey can and will crash your party – and once this bill becomes law, there will be severe consequences for every person who disregards executive orders during a state of emergency.”