Twenty-one people are newly charged this week with violating Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 executive order to stay home except for limited reasons.
A total of 88 cases have been filed between March and Tuesday; one case involved Walz’s order prohibiting bars and restaurants from holding dine-in services.
Many of the violations were added onto other alleged crimes that included minor driving infractions, drug possession and stalking. The Legal Rights Center and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have criticized the practice of tacking COVID-19 violations onto other alleged crimes.
“Every week, a few police officers include language in their charging documents to the effect that crime is not an allowed activity under the governor’s emergency order, and then charge the violation of the order separate and in addition to the (alleged crime),” said Michael Friedman, executive director of the Legal Rights Center. “But if [the crimes] are illegal without a special order, then the violation of the order is irrelevant … and should not be charged.”
Friedman said prosecutors should dismiss such violations “in the interests of equitable justice.”
The organizations, Walz and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety have called for education before enforcement.
Walz’s stay-at-home order went into effect in late March and expired Monday. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
The new cases are:
• A Minneapolis woman who allegedly stole baby formula was also charged with two felonies — first-degree damage to property and theft.
She allegedly stole 34 cans of formula and clothes worth $949 from Target in Forest Lake on May 8. She allegedly had stolen 21 cans of formula, food and cutlery from Cub Foods earlier that day, and allegedly stole 23 cans of baby formula in April. She told police she had COVID-19 and made herself vomit in a squad car, charges said. They did not specify whether she tested positive for the disease.
• Champlin police cited a Robbinsdale woman along with not having vehicle registration.
• Worthington police cited three Iowans and seven Minnesotans. The citations did not include details, except to note that the offenses occurred at the same address.
• A Maplewood police officer warned a woman hosting her birthday party on May 17 to disperse “numerous” guests. He returned later and cited her for failing to comply, noting that he first observed 20 cars at the home and then 15 on his next visit.
“This is the second time this month that officers have been sent to the address for a loud party,” the officer wrote.
• A Mound man was cited in addition to theft and possession of a BB gun. Brooklyn Park police stopped him after he allegedly stole a knife from Mills Fleet Farm.
“Committing the act of theft, while armed with a BB gun, would not fall under the essential travel exception,” the charges said.
• A Minneapolis man was charged along with fifth-degree drug possession, driving after his license was canceled, driving while intoxicated and possession of drug paraphernalia.
He drove into a sign and a ditch, charges said.
• A Worthington man was charged in addition two counts of driving while intoxicated and having an open bottle in a car after police stopped him for swerving.
• Three people were charged in addition to fourth-degree damage to property, trespassing and littering for allegedly spray-painting inside a Grand Marais home.
• Citations were not available for two Hennepin County cases.