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York County DA won’t prosecute nonessential businesses for violating shutdown order, tells police not to cite them

Ron Musselman
York Dispatch

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday said he will not prosecute alleged violations against nonessential businesses that open early during the coronavirus pandemic.

Local businesses that aren’t life-sustaining have been shuttered since March 19, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered them to close under a stay-at-home order.

On Thursday, the governor extended the stay-at-home orders affecting most Pennsylvanians, with 24 counties moving to a less-restrictive "yellow" phase.

“In analyzing the ever-changing scope and application of these orders, we find that their enforcement as criminal penalties is not possible on the consistent basis required of prosecutors and law enforcement,” Sunday said in a letter released Friday. 

“Accordingly, this office will not prosecute any criminal citations for alleged violations of the aforementioned orders and regulations, as amended, issued by the Governor and Secretary of the Department of Health concerning the operation of non-life sustaining businesses.

"Additionally, we are hereby directing law enforcement to not issue any such citations," Sunday said.

More:Businesses open in defiance of Pennsylvania shutdown

More:Still shuttered: Wolf doesn't clear York County for 'yellow' reopening phase

More:Study: 30% of York County businesses could fail in coronavirus fallout

York County was not cleared to advance from "red" phase designation to "yellow" by Wolf on Friday. And nonessential businesses could face possible penalties from the state if they choose to open early. 

“We are expressly remaining silent on any issues concerning potential civil or administrative penalties that may be imposed,” Sunday said.

“Civil or administrative matters are beyond the scope and standing of this office and it would be inappropriate for us to offer any legal opinions or guidance on that topic.”

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday during an interview at the York County Judicial Center, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

By the time York County moves to the "yellow" and "green" phases of Wolf's reopening plan, up to 30% of local businesses may have to shut their doors permanently.

That statistic is part of a consultant's report on York County's economic future, said Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.

"This is a crisis," he said. "There’s no way to sugarcoat it."

— Ron Musselman can be reached at rmusselman@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @ronmusselman8.

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