Health and Safety Code 120275 HS – Violating a Public Health or Quarantine Order

Health and Safety Code 120275 HS is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to violate any order regarding a quarantine from, or disinfection of, a communicable disease. The law is directly applicable to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders. A violation of the code section is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in county jail.

Note that officers may write a citation as "HS 120275" or "120275 HSC."

The language of 120275 HS states that “any person who, after notice, violates, or who, upon the demand of any health officer, refuses or neglects to conform to, any rule, order, or regulation prescribed by the department respecting a quarantine or disinfection of persons, animals, things, or places, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

Examples

  • refusing to quarantine for the coronavirus after receiving notice to do so
  • neglecting a health officer's order to disinfect a home
  • failing to conform to an officer's regulation regarding a quarantine

Defenses

A defendant can raise a legal defense to contest a charge under this statute. Some defenses include the accused showing that:

  • the order violated his/her constitutional rights,
  • he/she acted out of necessity, and/or
  • the defendant did not intentionally violate the law.

Penalties

A violation of HS 120275 is a misdemeanor. This is opposed to an infraction or a felony.

The crime is punishable by:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.

A judge may award a defendant with misdemeanor (or summary) probation in lieu of jail time.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

man quarantined during pandemic; violating a stay-at-home order can lead to criminal charges under 120275 HS
120275 HS makes it a crime to violate orders regarding a quarantine from, or disinfection of, a communicable disease.

1. When is it a crime to violate a public quarantine order?

A prosecutor must prove the following to convict a person under this statute:

  1. the defendant had notice of an order or rule regarding the quarantine from, or the disinfection of, a communicable disease, and
  2. the accused violated or neglected to conform to that order.1

Note that “disinfection” can relate to an order as to the disinfection of:

  • persons,
  • animals,
  • things, or
  • places.2

2. How can a person fight a 120275 HS charge?

Defense lawyers draw on several legal strategies in challenging charges under these laws. These include showing that:

  1. the order violated a defendant's constitutional rights.
  2. the accused acted out of necessity.
  3. the defendant did not intentionally violate the law.

2.1. Violation of constitutional rights

A defendant can always try to assert, as a defense, that a quarantine order violated his/her constitutional rights. The law, for example, may interfere with such rights of:

Note, though, that the Supreme Court has ruled that:

  1. a quarantine or disinfection order regarding a communicable disease,
  2. is not a violation of constitutional rights, and
  3. this is true when the order seeks to protect the citizens of a state.3

2.2. Necessity

The necessity defense would apply if a person violated a quarantine order, but needed to be out and about for necessary reasons. These might include shopping for groceries, medicine and medical supplies. It might also include going out to care for a friend or family member who was ill or incapacitated. Or an essential worker who needed to get to and from work.

Demonstrating that you were out to take care of necessary matters may be a legal defense to the charge. It might also be a mitigating circumstance that convinces the judge or the prosecutor to dismiss the case.

2.3. No intent

Recall that a person is only guilty under this statute if:

  1. he/she violated an order, and
  2. this happened after the party had notice of the order.

This means that an accused is not guilty unless he/she intentionally violated the law. A defense, then, is for the defendant to say that he/she did not act with intent.

man being led to a jail cell
A violation of this law can result in a fine and/or jail time

3. Is there potential jail time?

A violation of this statue is a misdemeanor.4

The crime is punishable by:

  • custody in county jail for up to six months, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.5

4. Can this lead to deportation?

A conviction under this statute will not have negative immigration consequences.

Sometimes a conviction in California can result in a non-citizen defendant being either:

An HS 120275 conviction, though, is not one of these offenses.

5. Can a conviction be expunged?

A defendant can get a conviction under these laws expunged. This is true provided that the party successfully completed:

  • his/her jail term, or
  • probation (whichever was imposed).

6. Does a conviction affect gun rights?

A conviction under HS 120275 does not adversely affect a defendant's gun rights.

California law says that some criminal convictions will cause a defendant to lose:

  • his/her right to own a gun, and
  • his/her right to possess a gun.

A conviction under this statute, though, does not produce these results.

7. Are there related offenses?

There are three crimes related to the violation of an order respecting a quarantine. These are:

  1. exposure to infectious disease – HS 120290,
  2. unlawful assembly – PC 408, and
  3. disturbing the peace – PC 415.

7.1. Exposure to infectious disease – HS 120290

Health and Safety Code 120290 HS is the State statute that makes it a crime for a person to intentionally transmit infectious disease.

An example is a person knowingly transmitting herpes to a sexual partner.

7.2. Unlawful assembly – PC 408

Penal Code 408 PC is the statute that defines "unlawful assembly." The law makes it a crime for two or more people to assemble together for the purpose of:

  • doing something illegal, or
  • doing something legal, but in a violent, boisterous, or tumultuous manner.

7.3. Disturbing the peace – PC 415

Penal Code 415 PC is the California statute that defines the crime of disturbing the peace.

A person commits this offense by doing any of the following in public:

  • playing excessively loud music,
  • fighting someone, or
  • using offensive words.

For additional help...

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Legal References:

  1. California Health and Safety Code 120275 HS.

  2. See same.

  3. Compagnie Francaise de Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana Board of Health (1902) 186 U.S. 380.

  4. California Health and Safety Code 120275 HS.

  5. See same. See also Penal Code 19 PC.

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