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

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As the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop, many business owners are looking again at the emergency orders which force non-essential businesses to close. More and more, business owners are taking the risk of illegally opening their business in violation of the SAFER LA order. What penalties could you face if you choose to do so?

Opening a business in West Hollywood 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

Fines from these regulatory boards vary depending on the type and severity of the related offense and may be as high as $20,000 or more.

That is a simple summary, but we’ll explain more in detail below since these fines and the emergency orders can be confusing. However, if you are currently being faced with a charge for opening your business illegally in LA, then you should contact us immediately at 323-655-5700 for a free consultation. Now more than ever, you need a trusted and experienced LA criminal defense attorney like William Kroger. He, along with the rest of our legal team here, has decades of experience and a long track record of successful defenses. Contact us today so we can begin preparing your defense.

What Is Considered an Essential Business in West Hollywood?

Essential businesses have been allowed to remain in operation to ensure the health and safety of the city, state, and country. While some businesses are easy to recognize as essential, others may not be so obvious. 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
  • Restaurants, but only for delivery, carryout, or outdoor seating
  • Agricultural operations, such as farming, livestock, and fishing
  • Gas stations
  • 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 you are allowed to operate, remember to follow the established safety protocols in order to protect yourself against fines from OSHA or other regulatory boards.

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

Since the various fines and penalties come from different sources, we’ve broken them down to help you better understand what you could be facing.

Penalties for Violating an Emergency Order

There are no penalties which are specific to COVID-19. Instead, the charges you could face come from California Government Code §8665 and the LA Charter §8.77 and §8.78. They outline the penalties for violating an emergency order.

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

If you operate your business illegally in violation of an established curfew, you could face those penalties.

OSHA Violation Penalties

OSHA has begun handing out penalties for violations of nationwide worker safety policies regarding COVID-19. These violations and penalties take many forms depending on the exact violation.

For example, if you had any employees working onsite while your business was open illegally, you could face a penalty for violating §5(a)(1) of the OSH Act of 1970, which 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;”

Since you were operating illegally and therefore placed your employees in a hazardous workplace unnecessarily, they may issue a penalty for violation of the above clause, often titled the “General Duty Clause.” Fines for a single violation have a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $70,000. OSHA has already been handing out fines nationwide.

Other Penalties

OSHA was not the only regulatory board to begin handing out fines. The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has also authorized these agencies to issue fines where necessary to enforce the emergency order:

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

While rarer, you could still face potential fines from these agencies as well, should they deem you in violation of their standards and choose to issue a penalty.

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

It seems like there is an ever-growing list of new emergency regulations and laws which you must obey as a business owner in West Hollywood.

If you have been charged with a violation of any of these emergency orders related to your business, we urge you to contact us today so we can discuss the details of your case for free. William Kroger and the rest of our legal team here have decades of experience defending against all manner of criminal charges and a proven track record for having charges reduced or dropped entirely.

Having an experienced and trusted Los Angeles criminal lawyer on your side is extremely important, now more than ever. Contact us today at 323-655-5700 for a free consultation so we can begin preparing your defense against these charges.

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