There's been a lot of discussion about the legalities of the Stay at Home orders, quarantine, and now the Contact Trace program. Many are hearing the state can "throw you in jail" for failure to comply.  Here's what we know.

Based upon laws-statutes enacted in 2003, a person who refuses quarantine can end up in jail. According to the Revised Code of Washington (WAC-246100-040):

"At his or her sole discretion, a local health officer may issue an emergency detention order causing a person or group of persons to be immediately detained for purposes of isolation or quarantine..."

However, following that is a long list of of criteria the health official must satisfy in order to demand such actions. Those actions include requesting voluntary testing, treatment, counseling, decontamination etc.; and the officer must strongly show they believe the person in question could cause serious (public) harm due to their condition.  The code also says this:

"A local health officer may invoke the powers of police officers, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and employees of any political subdivisions within the jurisdiction of the health department to enforce immediately orders given to effectuate the purposes of this section in accordance with the provisions of RCW 43.20.050(4) and 70.05.120."

If the person refuses all such efforts, the code also says this:

"Court Order for Involuntary Isolation or Quarantine - WAC 246-100-040(4)

Likely to be used when: Not confident that individual will comply with either Request or Local Health Officer Order; Local Health Officer believes that it may be necessary to move to a  contempt of court proceeding with the threat of  incarceration and/or greater fine to secure the individual; as a supplement to the Local Health Officer Order for Involuntary Isolation or Quarantine (both can be obtained, i.e. not mutually exclusive). "

That covers the quarantine part. We haven't heard of anyone being prosecuted in this manner..yet. But what worries many is the way these laws are being utilized during COVID-19.  Here's where the situation gets very dicey, and could test the limits of Constitutional freedoms and privacy.

The Contact Trace program proposed by Inslee has five steps, some of them are scaring people. These steps include:

  • Person A thinks they have COVID. They notify Contact Trace program. They're tested and interviewed by Contact Trace Workers (CTW).
  • If they test positive or probable, CTW reaches out to anyone Person A came in contact with during the contagious or incubation period, and tells them they've possibly been exposed or infected.

Here's the murky part.  The secondary people are not told who Person A is, only that they've been possibly exposed or infected. Person A's identity is withheld. Gov. Inslee stated this is for their protection, security and privacy. Although this isn't about 'crime,' do we not have the right to know who our 'accuser' is?

Also, what if the secondary people refuse to be tested? Do they go to jail? We don't know. When asked that direct question Tuesday about how the state would handle people or families who refused testing or self-isolation, this was Inslee's answer (direct from video transcript):

We will have attached to the families a family support person who will check in with them to see what they need on a daily basis… and help them. If they can’t get a friend to do their grocery shopping, we will help get them groceries in some fashion. If they need pharmaceuticals to be picked up, we will make sure they get their pharmaceuticals… That’s going to help encourage them to maintain their isolation too.

“As far as refusal, it just shouldn’t come to that, and it really hasn’t. We’ve had really good success when we ask people to isolate, and they’ve done so in really high percentages, so we’re happy about that, and we believe that will continue.”

RedState.com ran a story this week that included details of the Contact Tracing program. They basically said (paraphrased) 'all you have to do to get locked down without food or other necessities is to refuse to cooperate with the government.'

So while Inslee did not directly say Contact Tracing 'secondary targets' would go to jail for refusing to cooperate, there's a very strong insinuation something along those lines will happen. It's very murky and vague, which, again, is causing great concern among citizens.

To read more of the great assessment on this from RedState, click on the button below.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app