TOPEKA – July 2, 2020 – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt today provided updated guidance to law enforcement agencies and county prosecutors statewide on the enforcement of emergency orders, following the passage of House Bill 2016 last month and the issuance of Executive Order 20-52 earlier today.
The guidance, in the form of a memorandum, updates previous guidance provided by the attorney general on March 24, April 8 and May 28. The memo reflects changes to the Kansas Emergency Management Act adopted by the Kansas Legislature on June 4, and signed into law by the governor on June 8. Those amendments included changing the violation of an emergency order issued by the governor from a Class A misdemeanor to a civil violation, which may be enforced by a lawsuit filed by the county or district attorney. As such, law enforcement officers may no longer arrest or detain individuals for violations of an emergency order.
Additionally, Schmidt noted in the memo that under House Bill 2016, individual counties may elect to adopt provisions that are “less stringent” than a governor’s order. If an individual county has done so, then the governor’s emergency order may not be enforced in that county, even by a civil lawsuit.
The new law also authorizes the attorney general to bring enforcement actions.
“The attorney general’s office will defer to the decisions of local county and district attorneys and has no plans to bring our own enforcement actions simply for not wearing a mask,” Schmidt said. “I think the better approach is to leave any enforcement to local authorities who know their communities best and to give Kansans information and encouragement and trust them to make wise decisions. So here’s what I encourage: Be safe on this Independence Day weekend, use common sense and caution to keep yourself and others healthy, heed the advice of the CDC and other public health experts, and wear a mask for now whenever you’re in a public setting and cannot maintain a safe distance from other people.”
A copy of the memorandum is available at https://bit.ly/2YRbFXG.