When Shelter Order Is Defied, 'Criminal Justice System Will Go To Work,' DA Says

A closed sign is posted in front of a parking lot at China Camp State Park on March 25, 2020 in San Rafael.
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As Bay Area police officers prepare for another weekend of enforcement of the state’s ‘shelter-in-place’ order, one Bay Area district attorney says he’s not afraid to prosecute those who continue to defy the order. 

San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe was as surprised as anyone by some of the scenes of big crowds at public parks and beaches around the Bay Area last weekend. His advice to residents this weekend is to get outside, but stay close to home and avoid others to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. 

“It’s fine to get out,” said Wagstaffe, “maintain social distance, but stay in your neighborhood.” 

Avoiding others is one of the keys to reducing the spread of coronavirus, according to health officials. 

“You don’t need to get in a car and drive to the coast or the campgrounds, just do it in your neighborhood” said Wagstaffe, “that way one can get the fresh air and get out of the house but not endanger our neighbors, which is what we’re trying to avoid.”

Many Bay Area cities have opted to close their public parks and open space areas to cut down on the potential for large gatherings. Gov. Gavin Newsom also announced the closure of parking lots at state parks to help control the crowds. All of these measures are aimed at promoting social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.  

Wagstaffe is telling officers to use persuasion first and educate residents about the dangers of group gatherings, but to not be afraid to lean on enforcement when needed.

“If somebody is just defiant, then the criminal justice system will go to work.” said Wagstaffe.

Violations of the public health order are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, and even jail time.