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Are Beers with Neighbors Allowed Under Governor Walz’ Stay at Home Order?

by Mar 31, 2020Criminal Defense Attorney, Kevin Sieben

As every Minnesotan knows, last Friday night, March 27, 2020, Governor Walz’ “Stay at Home” Order went into effect. The goal of the Order is to slow the spread of the Coronavirus and allow hospitals to get prepared. Here at Sieben Edmunds Miller we encourage everyone to take this Order seriously. It’s not often that watching Netflix from your couch can save a life. Take this opportunity and protect our state.

But I just NEED to get Out!

With that said, there comes a time (day three of “stay at home”) where you just need to get up and have some interaction with others. You probably have had Zoom happy hours with friends and found them to be fun, but just not the same. After all, with poor internet connections, bad lighting, and people talking over each other, these internet get togethers are just not the same as meeting in real life.

So can you have a driveway beer with your neighbor or other friend so long as you stay six feet apart? Let’s look to Governor Walz’ Order. Emergency Executive Order 20-20 states, ” [A]ll persons currently living within the State of Minnesota are ordered to stay at home or in their place of residence.” The Order does allow some exceptions. Specifically, Minnesotans can be out of their residence for the following reasons: relocation to ensure safety, health and safety activities (going to the hospital), outdoor activities (exercise),necessary supplies and services (groceries), essential travel to return home, care of others, displacement (homeless can move to shelters).

Is There a Rationale for Driveway Beer Socializing?

Okay, we know what you are thinking … a driveway beer is an outdoor activity — lifting weights 12 ounces at a time right? Good thinking. We thought that too, but unfortunately it is probably wishful thinking. While Governor Walz’ previous executive orders required social distancing of at least six feet, there is a reason that he went to the more serious “Stay at Home” Order. The spirit of the Stay at Home Order is to keep people even further away then the previous social distancing orders. While there certainly is some room for argument in his executive orders, we believe that the “outdoor activity” exception is more for physical activity such as exercise, hiking, biking, or walking. We lawyers do love to argue, but for the safety of others we advise that you adhere to the spirit of the law. While they are awkward, the online happy hours with friends you haven’t seen in real life for months will have to be enough.

What if I Don’t Completely Adhere to the Order?

The Governor has asked all Minnesotans to voluntarily comply. The National Guard has not been sent in to ensure you stay on your couch, but the Order has the full authority of our laws. Theoretically, the police could enforce the Order and cite those who don’t comply. Punishment for a violation can be up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. It is our advice to keep the public safe and wait for the huge block party when this is over to get that beer with your neighbors.

Lastly, if you or a loved one didn’t heed the Governor’s Order, make sure to consult with an attorney about your rights. Feel free to set up a virtual meeting with one of our attorneys here at Sieben Edmunds Miller.

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