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Prosecutor plans to "aggressively" prosecute COVID-19 positive people who knowingly infect others

Ryan Mears says battery charges could be filed
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Posted at 7:23 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 00:29:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS— The Marion County prosecutor’s office intends to “aggressively” prosecute people who test positive for COVID-19 and take steps to infect others.

Prosecutor Ryan Mears said at this time, they’re not aware of any incidents of this happening in Marion County.

“We’ve read about other jurisdictions where people have coughed or sneezed on other individuals,” said Mears. “I can tell you if that happens and we get information on that, we will absolutely criminally prosecute those charges.”

While there is no specific criminal charge for infecting others with COVID-19, there are numerous criminal charges that might apply such as public endangerment or battery, said Mears.

“There’s an argument that it’s battery because you are touching another person if you’re sneezing and coughing with an intent to hurt that person,” said Mears. “We would definitely push the limits of the law to keep people safe and hold people accountable. We’d be aggressive in charging those cases.”

Although rare, some people have been charged in Indiana for knowingly infecting others with HIV/AIDS.

Knowingly or intentionally violating the disclosure statute amounts to a Level 6 felony, punishable by up to two and one-half years’ imprisonment and an up to $10,000 fine, according to the Indiana HIV Center for Law and Policy.

PREVIOUS | First person prosecuted in Marion County for violating travel order

Prosecutors throughout the state have already started filing criminal charges against people for violating the state’s stay-at-home order.

Call 6 Investigates analyzed 22 criminal cases filed throughout the state and nearly all were filed in conjunction with other crimes like OWI or public intoxication.

“No one is actively searching for individuals who are violating the mayor’s travel order or the Governor’s executive stay at home order,” said Mears. “However, if the person is involved in another crime or an accident, it is appropriate for law enforcement to ask ‘why are you out and is this for a legitimate purpose?’”

RTV6 also asked about prosecuting businesses who violate any state or local orders.

Mears emphasized criminal charges would be a last resort, and that they plan to follow the following process:

  1. Verbal warning
  1. A cease and desist letter
  1. A removal of their license or permit,
  1. Criminal charges

The charge would be a B Misdemeanor which carries a sentencing range from 0-180 days in jail and fines up to $1000.