INDIANAPOLIS — The state has issued 36 verbal warnings to businesses who have allegedly violated the governor’s orders regarding essential and nonessential businesses.
Indiana State Excise Police, in coordination with Indiana Conservation Officers and Indiana Gaming Officers, have investigated a total of 654 complaints, of which 557 have been deemed unfounded, meaning the business was either not open or was found to be in compliance.
The state’s Joint Information Center declined to provide RTV6 with a list of businesses that received warnings.
“Because the businesses that received a verbal warning therefore still have an open investigation, we cannot provide details about those,” said the Joint Information Center in an email to RTV6.
On March 16, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an order prohibiting restaurants, bars and nightclubs from providing in-dining services. On March 23, Holcomb directed the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC), Indiana State Department of Health and local boards of health to take all available administrative and enforcement actions against establishments who violate that order.
Indiana State Excise Police issued one notice of violation to a bar in Mishawaka in response to the stay at home order. 311 Inn on South Union Street was cited on March 23, records obtained by Call 6 Investigates show.
The Indiana State Excise Police is the law enforcement division of the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, and complaints about restaurants and bars not adhering to the Executive Order should be submitted to the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.
If an employee feels their work conditions are unsafe, they may file a complaint with the Indiana Department of Labor.
As of April 14, the Department of Labor has received more than 4,198 COVID-19 related complaints including 2,187 complaints related to whether a business was essential or non-essential.
The Department of Labor does not have enforcement powers when it comes to the governor’s order regarding who is deemed essential and nonessential, however if they get a complaint, they are sending letters to companies reminding them who is essential and nonessential.
County prosecutors have the ability to file criminal charges against business owners for operating despite state and local orders to close.
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears emphasized criminal charges would be a last resort, and that they plan to follow the following process:
- Verbal warning
- A cease and desist letter
- A removal of their license or permit,
- 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.
As of April 14, county prosecutors have filed criminal charges against more than 80 individuals for violating the state at home order—typically in conjunction with other crimes like OWI, public intoxication and drug possession.