Franklin County Sheriff J.D. Raymond in Washington said he refuses to enforce the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee or any other guidelines “that infringe on your constitutional rights,” according to the Associated Press.
The sheriff told his constituents in a letter that while he believes the pandemic is legitimate, he feels it “needs to be dealt with appropriately,” AP reported.
Raymond said that he thinks businesses and churches should be allowed to reopen if they enforce strict social distancing practices, according to AP.
“This intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and neither I nor my office will enforce any arrests or fines regarding the operation of privately-owned businesses,” Raymond said, according to AP.
Raymond joins sheriffs from Wisconsin and Michigan who are choosing not to enforce the stay-at-home orders, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Fox News.
“I took an oath to uphold the constitutional rights of our citizens and I cannot in good faith participate in the destruction of Racine County businesses or interfere in the freedoms granted to all of us by our Constitution,” Racine County, Wisconsin Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said in a statement obtained by the Journal Sentinel.
Four different county sheriffs in Michigan also announced their decision to defy the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a news release last week, Fox News reported.
“While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel, Manistee County Sheriff Ken Falk and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said, according to Fox.
Michigan has almost 32,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 2,700 deaths, according to michigan.gov.
The short answer is yes, according to NPR. Elected sheriffs have a unique amount of discretion to pick and choose which laws they will enforce, NPR reported.
Many sheriffs chose not to enforce certain gun laws in 2019, including in Washington state, according to NPR. They cited constitutional infringements then as well, NPR reported.
But constitutional scholars argue that in the context of a national pandemic, stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices do not infringe on your rights, McClatchy reported.
“You don’t have a right to assemble against the backdrop of known public health risk,” James G. Hodge, the director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University, told McClatchy. “Some of those basic liberties are going to be truncated for a brief period. Most Americans understand the need for that.”
Officials usually have to go through legal processes to close an establishment or limit public gatherings, McClatchy reported. But under a state of emergency, everything is expedited, according to Hodge.
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