Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler and Orange County Sheriff Carl E. DuBois announced on Tues., Apr. 8 that the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office have instituted a protocol to investigate referrals from the New York State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force regarding possible violations of emergency executive orders and Department of Health orders related to COVID-19.
The Governor established the Task Force to accept and investigate complaints regarding the operation of non-essential businesses or gatherings. Complaints can be made either by filing an online form, which is available at https://mylicense.custhelp.com/app/ask , or by calling 1-833-789-0470.
Since Mar. 7, various Executive Orders have been issued by New York State’s Governor which were designed to reduce social density by discouraging the unnecessary gathering of people in close contact in businesses and public places.
Similarly, the New York State Department of Health has issued guidance concerning necessary precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Complaints received by the New York State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force are first reviewed by State agency personnel for completeness, accuracy, and applicability under the orders, and are then referred to law enforcement officials in the jurisdiction where the violations are alleged to be occurring.
Referrals from the New York State PAUSE Enforcement Assistance Task Force which are alleged to be occurring in Orange County will initially be investigated by the New York State Police and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, in consultation with the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. In the event that it is determined that criminal charges are not warranted, subsequent referrals might then be made to the Orange County Department of Health, or other County or local regulatory agencies, such as Code Enforcement Officers. Those offices, in consultation with the County Attorney’s Office, or their appropriate municipal attorneys, will determine whether fines or other penalties should be pursued.
“All agencies involved in this initiative agree that obtaining voluntary compliance with social distancing regulations is the primary goal,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “Law enforcement officials have been encouraged to issue warnings, and to break-up and disrupt illegal and unsafe gatherings, before considering filing charges or taking other punitive measures. However, we cannot tolerate those who refuse to comply with lawful orders of the police to disperse and thereby endanger others as well as themselves. In addition to working on these referrals, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work with all our law enforcement partners, and local and County officials, in doing everything that we can to keep Orange County residents safe.”
Orange County Sheriff Carl E. Dubois said, “We encourage the use of this reporting system, but remind the public that this is for legitimate danger to public safety violations. All of our partners are very busy during this pandemic for obvious reasons. Frivolous or retaliatory reporting will detract and waste time from serious violations.”
Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said, “This task force will help us put restrictions on businesses and gatherings through Executive Orders designed to reduce public density. In turn, it will slow the rate of transmission of COVID-19. Law enforcement is very busy right now and must concentrate on emergencies and saving lives, not breaking up gatherings. I urge all residents to practice social distancing. Regardless of where anyone lives or their background the message has to be clear: STAY HOME.”