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What Are the Penalties for Illegally Opening a Business in Burbank During COVID-19?

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When the severity of the COVID-19 situation became clear, states began issuing emergency orders which forced businesses deemed non-essential to close to the public. After months of being forced to close, many business owners are considering re-opening their business even if they are not allowed to under the SAFER L.A. order.

Opening a business in Burbank in violation of the Safer LA order is a misdemeanor and carries these penalties:

  • A fine of up to $1000
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Or, both a fine and prison time
  • The business’ water and electric utilities may be shut off by the Deputy Mayor of Public Safety

Additionally, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has established that penalties and fines may also be accrued from the California divisions of:

  • The Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA)
  • The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)
  • The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement

That is a simple summary of the potential fines and penalties you could face. We’ll explain in further detail below, but if you are currently being faced with a charge for opening your business illegally in Burbank, or anywhere else in LA, then we recommend you contact us immediately. We offer a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and how we can help.

William Kroger is a trusted and experienced LA criminal defense attorney, and along with the rest of our team here has a proven track record for successful defenses against a wide variety of criminal charges. Contact us as soon as possible at 323-655-5700 or right here online.

What Is Considered an Essential Business in Burbank?

In order to help maintain necessary utilities and services during this crisis, many different types of businesses were marked as “essential” under the Safer LA order and allowed to remain in operation. This includes obvious services, such as trash disposal, as well as some which may not immediately come to mind.

Under §5.7(vii) of Mayor Garcetti’s SAFER L.A. order, all essential businesses are detailed. Here is a selection of those businesses:

  • Grocery stores, produce stands, convenience stores, and other similar stores
  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants, but only for delivery, carryout, or outdoor seating
  • Agricultural operations, such as farming, livestock, and fishing
  • Auto repair shops
  • Hardware supply shops
  • Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other trade work
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners

The full list is too long to include here. Please reference this for the complete list.

Even if your business is allowed to operate, you must still follow the established safety protocols in order to protect yourself against fines from regulatory boards like OSHA.

What Penalties Could I Face for Opening My Business Illegally during COVID-19?

If you open your business in LA illegally against the Safer LA order, you could potentially face fines and penalties from several different sources. In order to help better explain them, we’ve split them into a few categories.

Primary Legal Penalties for Violating the Emergency Order

There are no penalties which are specifically related to the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, there are laws outlining the fines and penalties for violating any emergency order, including the Safer LA order. They can be found in the California Government Code §8665 and the LA Charter §8.77 and §8.78.

As outlined in both §8865 in the California Government Code and §8.77 of the Los Angeles Charter, violation of an emergency order is a misdemeanor charge and carries potential penalties of:

  • $1000 in fines
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Or, both fines and prison time

Though less frequent, there is an additional charge you should be aware of. It deals with violation of an established curfew. §8.78 of the Los Angeles Charter outlines it as a misdemeanor charge with these penalties:

  • $1000 in fines
  • Up to 6 months in prison
  • Both fines and prison time

This second situation is rarer, but if you operate your business in violating of an established curfew then you could be charged.

OSHA Violation Penalties

As a workplace safety regulation board, OSHA has played a large role in ensuring businesses are providing safe working conditions for their employees during the pandemic. OSHA has been urged by Governor Newsom not to be shy about handing out penalties related to COVID-19.

The exact fine(s) you could face depends on the specific violation, but among the most common is a violation of the “General Duty Clause” found in §5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970. It states:

“Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;”

If you were operating your business in Burbank illegally in violation of the Safer LA order, and you included employees during that operation, then it would be considered a violation of the General Duty Clause. Fines for a single violation of this clause have a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $70,000 per violation. If you implicated multiple employees in the illegal operation, you could potentially face multiple fines of this nature.

Other Penalties from Regulatory Boards

In addition to OSHA, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services authorized the following agencies to issue fines where necessary in order to enforce compliance with the Safer LA order:

  • The Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)
  • The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA)
  • The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement

Fines and penalties from these boards are rarer than OSHA penalties, but they do still occur. If any of them find you in violation of their regulatory codes, they could choose to issue you a penalty as well.

Defending Against Charges for Violating an Emergency Order: How We Can Help

It’s no surprise that during this unprecedented time, many business owners are facing charges for violating emergency orders or any other COVID-19 related emergency regulation. The orders are constantly being updated and can be difficult to track.

If you are currently facing a charge for opening your business illegally in Burbank, or anywhere else in LA, contact us immediately at 323-655-5700 for a free consultation. William Kroger has decades of experience as an LA criminal defense attorney and a proven track record for successful defenses. Our team here is your best bet for a successful defense against these charges.

The sooner you get in touch, the sooner we can get to work preparing your defense.

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