Face Masks & Criminal Charges: Should You Risk Going Mask-Free?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jun 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

The spread of COVID-19 has upended virtually every facet of modern life. Now, new social distancing requirements in Pennsylvania make it illegal to enter convenience stores, pharmacies, and supermarkets without a mask or face covering. Fail to do so and you could be charged with disorderly conduct.

Disorderly conduct is typically used to describe unreasonable behavior in public. Making unreasonably loud noises, using obscene language, or engaging in threatening behavior can all warrant disorderly conduct charges. Should a person cause serious harm or inconvenience to others while engaging in such behaviors, disorderly conduct charges can be upgraded to the third degree.

What Misdemeanor Charges Mean for Pennsylvanians

Should you opt not to wear a mask when visiting your local grocery store, you could be facing misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges The maximum penalty for such a crime is a year incarceration and up to $2,500 in fines. While it's unlikely that anyone would face these maximum sentences for failing to wear a mask, such penalties are possible. In most cases, the Commonwealth will likely find it difficult to prove that the person caused substantial harm or inconvenience.

Still, failing to put on a mask or leave the premises after a warning could warrant charges. Since Pennsylvania is putting the word out about the mandate through every media outlet available, there's no reason to claim ignorance about the new requirement.

Although there are mixed opinions regarding the matter, wearing a mask may be an easy way to help ease COVID-19's impact on society at large. While they might be uncomfortable at times, the small sacrifice may do wonders for our fellow man. Regardless of where you stand regarding whether wearing a mask is beneficial or not, if you can't wear a mask, it's arguably best to stay out of retail stores for the time being. Doing so is the easiest way to avoid misdemeanor charges.

Will You be Arrested?

Generally speaking, those who violate mask requirements will not be handcuffed and taken to the police station. The person may be asked to leave the premises and be ticketed for their decision not to wear a mask, but police are generally looking for voluntary compliance when enforcing these new rules.

Just because you won't be hauled off in handcuffs doesn't mean you should skip the mask altogether. Ignorance of the law is no defense. If you knew about the mask requirements and chose not to follow them, you may indeed be fined or sentenced to jail time.

Because this is relatively uncharted legal territory, there's no telling how severely the criminal justice system will penalize those who flout the law. Misdemeanor criminal offenses are not immediately expungeable in Pennsylvania (as a person would have to turn 70 years old and have met other conditions to become eligible). That means your choice to disobey mask requirements could follow you around for years after conviction (although a record sealing / limited access may be possible after 10 years if other conditions are also met).

If You've Been Charged

If you've been charged, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Given how stressful an arrest and charge can be, it's important to find representation that's both empathetic and experienced. No matter the situation that led to your arrest, our Criminal Law Team will represent you and fight for your best interests. Schedule your consultation online today, or call 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.