Most of the governors in the United States have issued some form of a Stay at Home order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. There have been numerous orders issued related to the coronavirus in Ohio since Governor Mike DeWine declared a State of Emergency in Ohio on March 9, 2020. However, martial law has not been declared anywhere in the U.S. due to the Coronavirus.

Ohio’s Stay at Home Order

On March 22, 2020, the first Stay at Home directive was issued by the Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Action, M.D., MPH. Beginning on March 23, 2020, through April 6, 2020, Ohioans were ordered to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The order prevented gatherings of any size and closed all nonessential businesses throughout the state. The order did not prevent individuals from leaving their homes to obtain essential goods and services, such as going to the grocery store, taking pets for walks, or obtaining medical care.

A new Stay at Home Order was issued that extended the directive from April 7, 2020, through May 1, 2020. The order is mandatory. It is not a recommendation to stay at home.

Is the Ohio Stay at Home Order the same as Martial Law?

No, the order to shelter in place is not martial law. The National Guard has not been mobilized to enforce the order. The roads in Ohio have not been closed throughout the state, although Ohioans are directed to only travel if it is essential for their health or to work at a business that remains open as an essential business.

Martial law occurs when our civil institutions cannot maintain the peace and the military steps in to take control. There is no indication that this will happen. Our civil institutions are strong and are in control of the situation.

Under the State of Emergency, the government can take several actions to protect the health and safety of the citizens. For example, a Director’s Order was issued on March 13, 2020, restricting access to Ohio’s nursing homes to protect the nursing home residents who may be vulnerable to COVID-19. Another Director’s Order closed child care facilities that did not have a temporary Pandemic Child Care license issued by the state.

Director’s Orders and Executive Orders issued by state officials are not designed to place the state under martial law. They may temporarily close businesses or restrict a citizen’s access to some businesses or services, but they are not cause for alarm. The orders are issued as a way to protect Ohioans by slowing the spread of a dangerous and deadly virus.

Does the Stay at Home Order Mean I Have to Stay at Home if I Feel Unsafe?

There is a concern that instances of domestic violence may rise during the shutdown. Individuals who do not feel safe at home are encouraged to seek help if they cannot find somewhere to go that is safe. Individuals can contact the Ohio Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-934-9840 for help.

Individuals may also continue to contact local law enforcement officials if they are in danger of domestic violence. A person could be charged with domestic violence even if they have been ordered to stay at home.

What Happens If I am Arrested for Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

Law enforcement officials are obligated to arrest an individual if they have a reason to believe that domestic violence has occurred. Therefore, you could be arrested if your spouse or a household member calls the police during the shutdown.

A domestic violence arrest could result in a Temporary Protection Order (TPO), which requires you to move out of your home. The TPO bans communication with the alleged victim and generally remains in effect until the criminal case has been concluded.

Because of the shutdown, a TPO could be extremely expensive and restrict access to your children for long periods as the various coronavirus orders also impact the courts.

If you are arrested for domestic violence, contact a domestic violence attorney immediately. Your attorney can help you determine what steps you can take under the current shelter in place orders that will not violate the TPO. A lawyer can also begin working on a defense strategy to use once the pandemic restrictions have been eased, and courts return to a more regular schedule.

Do not violate the order. Violating at TPO could result in harsh punishments, even during the pandemic response. It is best to continue to protect your legal rights by remaining silent if you are arrested, except for requesting an attorney.