Will fines from Orange County executive order for COVID-19 violations stand?

Governor’s order supersedes local order, but explicitly cites individuals, not businesses exempt from COVID-related fines

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – News 6 Legal Analyst Steve Kramer said while Mayor Jerry Demings Emergency Executive Order is trying to fit within the gaps of the Florida governor’s order, it may not have teeth if it were challenged in court.

After strike teams found more than a dozen bars not complying with Centers for Disease Control COVID-19 guidelines, Orange County Mayor Demings said an emergency executive order is necessary to hold businesses accountable. The draft orders shows businesses could face thousands of dollars in fines if they don’t follow COVID safety guidelines.

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“The enforcement mechanism in Mayor Demings’ order really classifies a violation of this order as a non-criminal violation, and the enforcement is centered around fines. Well, if you’re an individual looking at fines, there’s no teeth, because the Governor’s order that’s in place suspends the collection of fines,” said Kramer.

[RELATED: Orange County mayor plans to fine businesses up to $15,000 for serious COVID-19 violations]

Kramer said it all comes down to the language. In section IV of the Governor’s order, it explicitly “suspends the collection of fines and penalties enforced upon individuals.” Kramer emphasizing the first part.

“What they’ll say is that the governor suspended the collection of fines, but once that order is over, boom! We’ll hit you with the fines,” said Kramer.

As for the second part, Demings’ order puts businesses on the hook, not individual citizens. Even if the mayor signs the order, Kramer said the Governor can ultimately revise his order superseding local orders.

“What [the order] represents is an attempt of good intentions on the part of the county, but enforcing it is going to be difficult,” said Kramer.

Kramer said it’s a difficult time for community leaders trying to control the spread of the virus and business owners trying to make ends meet during a pandemic. Some business owners complaining that COVID guidelines sometimes provides mixed messaging.

If the order is signed Friday, businesses may face fines as early as Sunday if they don’t follow COVID safety guidelines.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.