County issues COVID-19 statement

Almost a week after Fayette County’s state’s attorney said his office will not prosecute businesses that open in violation of Gov. JB Pritzker’s COVID-19-related orders, he and the county’s sheriff put it in writing.
Joshua Morrison said during last Tuesday’s Fayette County Board meeting, “I will not be prosecuting anybody based on the governor’s orders.
“Executive orders are just that – they are not law,” Morrison said.
“I, as much as anyone, want to see businesses open up,” he said.
“But, you with state licenses, you do whatever you do at your own peril. You understand that,” Morrison said.
On Monday, Morrison and Fayette County Sheriff Chris Smith issued a joint statement related to arrests and prosecution during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The county's statement follows:
In response to the governor’s emergency rule making it a Class A misdemeanor for certain businesses to open:
While we understand that the current COVID-19 crisis is a serious issue and we recommend everyone take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others, we are disturbed at the overreach by Gov. Pritzker in creating an emergency “rule” making it a Class A misdemeanor for certain businesses to be open.
On April 23, a judge in Sangamon County issued a restraining order against enforcement of a similar emergency Worker’s Compensation rule. The rule was subsequently overturned.
Because we have clear and recent case law against this type of action, we are disturbed that the governor would take this step.
Regardless of the outcome of the legality of this rule, there is existing statutory guidance in place relating to epidemics that protects business and personal due process.
This (state’s attorney’s) office and Fayette County law enforcement will follow the process for business closure in 20 ILCS 2305/2(c), which includes provisions for notice, right to counsel, and a clear public health risk.
Nowhere in this rule does it say that this process for closure does not apply.
Due process rights of individuals and businesses are not suspended in Fayette County. The Constitution is not suspended during an emergency.
Because we expect that this rule will be quickly overturned, this office has the duty to protect citizens and businesses, and we are directing county and local law enforcement as follows :
The rule is not a criminal infraction. It is written under 20 ILCS 2305, not the criminal code, and as such is a civil issue.
Law Enforcement is directed not to arrest anyone on this basis. The Fayette County Jail will not accept anyone arrested solely on this basis, regardless of the arresting agency.
Do not issue citations or close businesses under 20 ILCS 2305. This statute requires the Illinois Department of Public Health or the Fayette County Health Department to institute proceedings and has a high burden of proof and very specific notification requirements for the county.
If an officer feels proceedings are necessary, officers are directed to complete a report and submit it to this office for review and next steps.
This office will not prosecute citations in cases where proper procedures are not followed.
The Fayette County State’s Attorney’s Office is committed to prosecuting crime, and we will use our prosecutorial discretion to protect law-abiding citizens.
We will not prosecute business owners for violating a “rule” that is clearly unenforceable, especially when doing so would violate actual statutory processes, violate citizens’ rights, and open the county to liability and possible misconduct.
Instead, we will rely on statutes that have been through the legislative process.
Questions or concerns are to be addressed to Fayette County state’s attorney’s office at 283- 5040 or the sheriff’s office at 283-2141.

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