Hiding an infectious disease and breaking quarantine
Yesterday the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States died and a second possible case of Ebola was identified in Dallas. Recent events have raised questions regarding the State’s ability to restrict a person’s freedom, place individuals in quarantine, and the criminal penalties for concealing communicable disease and breaking quarantine.
Can you be prosecuted for concealing a communicable disease?
In Texas, it is a criminal offense to knowingly conceal or attempt to conceal the fact that you, or a minor in your care, were exposed to or are a carrier for a communicable disease that is a threat to the public.
This is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by six months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine. “Communicable disease” is broadly defined as an illness that occurs through the transmission of an infectious agent.
Can Doctors Order You to Stay in Quarantine?
Yes. Texas Health and Safety Code Section 81.083 allows local health authorities who have reasonable cause to believe a person has a communicable disease to “implement control measures that are reasonable and necessary to prevent the…spread of the disease with this state.”
Quarantine can be established for an entire area, property or group of individuals. Doctors may obtain a public health order that requires you to remain within a quarantined area and comply with any required testing. The public health order must be in writing and is effective until such time as the individual is no longer infected. Section 81.085 provides that a health authority can establish an area that is quarantined.
Is it a Criminal Offense to Break Quarantine?
It is a third degree felony to knowingly refuse to follow the orders or rules of the health authority while under quarantine. Additionally a peace officer may use reasonable force to secure the quarantine area. 817-203-2220. Call our attorneys if are you are charged with breaking quarantine or hiding infectious diseases.