Anita Shaffer is now faced with what appears to be a ticket of at least $202.25 for breaking the state’s Disease Control and Prevention Act of 1955. She pleaded not guilty and intends to take up the matter before a magisterial district judge.
The citation fails to mention a fine amount but Trooper Brent Miller said it is a summary offense and the fine would be $25, which would bring the total cost of the ticket up to $227.25.
Shaffer said she saw the police cars parked in Yoe. After passing them, the police started following her until they pulled her over in Red Lion. One of the troopers said they stopped her because her taillight was out, she said. The trooper also mentioned that her window tinting was too dark, she said.
She said the troopers also asked her if she was under the influence or on drugs. She told them she wasn’t but she said she was still told to step out of her car and troopers shined a flashlight in her eyes. Then the trooper told her to return to her car.
“He asked me if I was aware of the stay-at-home act,” she said. She responded: “I am aware of it but I didn’t know it pertained to just driving.”
The trooper told her he wasn’t going to fine her for the window tint or taillight “but you should be at home during this act that’s in place right now and just get the taillight fixed,” Shaffer said. Once she got home, she and her father Neil Shaffer said they discovered the taillight was working fine.
Shaffer said she was alone in her car and had no intention of getting out of it.
On the citation, it states she “failed to abide by the order of the governor and secretary of health issued to control the spread of a communicable disease, requiring the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses as of 20:00 hours on March 19, 2020. To wit, defendant states that she was ‘going for a drive’ after this violation was in effect.”
While the governor’s stay-at-home order is mandatory, state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said voluntary compliance is preferred and is what the state police are focusing on.
“Troopers have been encouraged to use contacts with the public as opportunities to reinforce the necessity to abide by stay-at-home orders,” he said.
However, Tarkowski added, “Troopers maintain discretion to warn or issue citations and the decision is specific to the facts and circumstances of a particular encounter.”
Like companies that can be cited for failing to suspend in-person operations of a business that isn’t life sustaining, he said individuals may be cited for failing to abide by the “stay at home” order.
Tarkowski said he was unable to say how many citations for violating stay-at-home orders had been issued by state police on Thursday evening.
Shaffer said she felt she was within her rights to operate her car. Her father agreed.
“I think this is a little bit over the top,” Neil Shaffer said. “There’s a fine line here but at the same time, we still have some freedom, some rights and liberties and we’re allowed to operate our cars. We’re allowed to go for a walk. We’re allowed to go to the park and we’re even able to go to work” if you work at a life-sustaining business or government agency, he said.
“Most everybody is trying their best but that was ridiculous in my opinion,” he said.
Neil Shaffer further said his daughter’s experience should serve as a warning to all Pennsylvanians.
“The public should be a little bit careful and I think our people in office ought to understand what some of the repercussions are,” he said. “Some of the things border on harassment that could start to take place here if we have a police force that could be looking at things in the wrong light and maybe taking things too far.”
On Wednesday, the governor expanded the stay-at-home order across all of Pennsylvania. It’s in effect until April 30.
Earlier this week, Wolf responded to a question about whether his stay-at-home orders were being enforced on individuals. “At this point we’re focusing the state police’s efforts on business closures,” Wolf said.
Interestingly, the Pennsylvania State Police reported on Thursday that no citations have been issued to non-life-sustaining businesses operating in violation of the governor’s business closure order. Only warnings have been handed out.
Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-York County, whose district includes Red Lion where Shaffer was stopped, said the mixed messages the administration has sent as part of its coronavirus mitigation efforts are confounding.
“The governor needs to mean what he says and say what he means during these unprecedented times,” she said. “If you are telling the public they will not be ticketed for violating the stay-at-home order, and yet we are seeing evidence of that occurring, we have more confusion and a lack of trust. These are uncertain times. Clarity is needed now more than ever.”