Griffin curfew lists 12 exemptions; others face $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail


Griffin City Manager Kenny Smith is responding to citizen concerns regarding the curfew enacted Tuesday night by the Board of Commissioners.

According to Smith, the purpose of the curfew is to limit transmission of COVID-19.

“Hopefully it will keep people from being out spreading the coronavirus. They just need to stay in from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. Not many people should be out after 9. Most of the time, if people are out after 9, they’re doing things that are non-essential,” Smith said. “Other than going to work, there’s not much people should be out doing after 9. We’re trying to encourage them to stay home. We’re encouraging them to stay home all the time, but we do realize there are things people do have to get out during the day and do, but other than work, there’s not much they need to be out doing during the nighttime.”

The state of emergency resolution the Board of Commissioners unanimously approved listed 12 specific exceptions to the curfew.

As defined by the city’s resolution, exempt individuals are identified as those “engaged in the provision of designated essential services” such as fire; law enforcement; medical and hospital services; including veterinary services; military services; utility emergency repairs; persons seeking emergency medical services or hospital services and those assisting such persons; individuals traveling to and from their jobs with appropriate identifications and persons traveling to medical facilities; individuals engaged in the delivery of food, medicine, medical supplies and fuel including, but not limited to, the re-stocking of grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores; news media employees; designated employees or agents of businesses designated by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency as “essential” pursuant to OCGA 38-3-58; persons providing necessary care of companion animals in the custody and care of an animal shelter, boarding facility or kennel and persons walking personal animals; and critical infrastructure businesses and employees as designated by the governor or identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

The provision citing “individuals traveling to and from their jobs” is not restricted to those legally designated as “essential,” but rather anyone employed by a business that remains open during the state of emergency.

“They can go back and forth to work no matter what their work is. If they’re going to work, it’s okay. As long as they have some identification, something that says they work,” Smith said. “A piece of paper from their employer will be fine.”

Officials cannot address every individual contingency, but Smith said the expectation is that Griffin police officers will be responsive to residents’ needs.

“I would certainly hope that they’re going to be reasonable,” he said.

Smith also said the curfew should not interfere with grocery shopping or obtaining food from restaurants because business hours had been reduced prior to the curfew’s enactment and food delivery is exempt from the curfew.

Adherence to the city’s code section outside the 12 listed exceptions will prevent Griffin residents from incurring enforcement penalties, Smith said.

That enforcement responsibility lies with the Griffin Police Department, which has had officers enforcing the curfew since Tuesday night.

The potential penalties range from a steep monetary fine to imprisonment, Smith said, later adding that the range includes potentially six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or both for each violation.

“Unless they meet one of those 12 exceptions, the officer is going to instruct them to go home. They could be cited with violating this emergency order, but the plan is initially to warn them and tell them to go home, but just like any other time, if they don’t comply with the officer’s instructions, they could be cited or ultimately arrested, but we certainly don’t want that to happen,” Smith said.

According to Smith, the curfew provides officers the probable cause necessary to initiate officer contact.

“Since we have a curfew, unless it’s one of the 12, they certainly have probable cause to ask them what they’re doing,” he said. “Someone driving to or from work may get stopped. As long as they have their work ID or other documentation, they should be fine, but I do believe that would constitute probable cause for them to stop and ask.”

Smith said he believes Griffin police officers will enforce the curfew with professionalism.

“There again, it’s dependent on the officer. It’s depending on the department, but we’re a nationally accredited and state certified agency with polices against profiling and I would be glad to say with pride and certainty that our officers would not use this as a reason to profile, but we do have the authority to invoke a curfew based on an emergency declaration and if there is an apparent violation of that curfew, it does give officers probable cause to stop and investigate, so what I would suggest is that if you don’t want to take the risk of being stopped after 9 o’clock, you either meet one of the 12 exceptions outlined in Section 12 of the declaration or you stay at home,” Smith said. “I would certainly hope we don’t have to take anyone to jail because of a curfew violation. We are issuing citations, so the only way someone would end up in jail is if something escalated from the citation. I would certainly hope it wouldn’t. To sum it all up, we’re meeting every day with Emergency Management and the Department of Public Health. We’re taking this very serious because it’s very serious. We don’t take this lightly. We aren’t doing this because it’s fun. It’s serious and we hope citizens will take it as seriously as we are.”

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