McMahon: Criminal charges will be 'last resort' to enforce stay-at-home order

  • Joe McMahon

    Joe McMahon

Updated 4/8/2020 6:17 PM

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon thanked community organizations, religious groups and business owners for their "remarkable voluntary compliance" to Gov. J.B. Pritzker's stay-at-home decree and said he'd use court action as a "last resort" to enforce the order.

During his monthly media meeting this week, McMahon warned if there's an outbreak that results in deaths that can be traced to a specific location, his office will consider criminal charges.


"Heaven forbid if we have an outbreak at a specific location and people die from it. That's a worst-case scenario, and if that situation occurs, I will absolutely look at the very real possibility of pursing criminal charges against individuals who kept those businesses open and knowingly exposed their employees and other people to this virus," he said.

Asked to elaborate, McMahon replied in an email: "It is a case-by-case analysis looking at motivation, prior warnings to the responsible party but the criminal charges that are possible are misdemeanor reckless conduct, disorderly conduct, and in a worst-case scenario reckless homicide and involuntary manslaughter."

Reckless homicide is a felony that carries a top prison term of five years; involuntary manslaughter carries three-year maximum sentence.

Municipal and law enforcement leaders have taken different approaches to enforcing Pritzker's order, which began March 20 and runs through April 30. The Pritzker order bans all public and private gatherings of 10 or more people.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot banned liquor sales after 9 p.m. beginning Thursday; Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes has warned police will issue tickets to those who congregate.

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Last month, Kane County authorities had to persuade the Northwest Bible Baptist Church near Elgin to close its school, switch to e-learning and cancel future services.

McMahon said his office and local authorities hope to educate people about the public health risks before turning to a cease-and-desist letter or criminal charge.

"That has not been necessary. I hope that continues. I will use that as an option of last resort," he said. "Again, I want to emphasize we had some great, productive conversations with members of our community."

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