Broward Residents: You Must Wear a Face Covering On Your Property

In case you missed it, Broward County issued a emergency order late last week requiring people to wear face coverings while on their own property. Guests must do the same.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Last Friday, county officials issued emergency order 20-22.

Section 4A of the document states that residents of single or multi-family homes must enforce mask mandates on their property at all times, including when they have guests over.

The clause itself states:

Section 4. Responsibility to Ensure Compliance with Applicable Orders. A. Residential Property Residents. All persons who reside on any residential property, whether single family or multi-family, and irrespective of whether they own or rent the property, must ensure that all persons on the residential property, including guests, comply with all applicable guidelines of any Broward County Emergency Order, including the facial covering requirements. Residents who fail to ensure compliance with all applicable Broward County Emergency Orders by such persons shall be subject to the penalties set forth in Section 8-56 of the Broward County Code of Ordinances, with each person present and in violation of an applicable Emergency Order constituting a separate violation.

However, Fort Lauderdale resident Chris Nelson is having none of it.

Nelson, who is behind the group “ReOpen South Florida,” plans to sue the county over the requirement, which he says is unconstitutional.

“What this is saying is the property owner is responsible for telling everybody, any person on that property, including family plus guests, that they have to wear a mask,” Nelson said. “So basically, if I want to have anybody come over to my house, I have to ensure they wear a mask and if I don’t and my neighbor suspects I’m not and calls the cops, I’m subject to a legal fine for not making people in my own house wear a mask. This steps way over the line.”

He staged a protest against the county’s beach closures on the 4th of July, and was arrested last week at a Broward County news conference.

Officials say Nelson was yelling that he felt the new curfew, face covering mandate, and other actions are an intrusion on citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights.

Police ordered him to leave, claiming that he was causing a disturbance. Nelson refused to leave at first, but complied when the officer ordered him to place his hands behind his back.

Residents who do not follow the mask mandate are “individually liable and subject to civil and criminal penalties” and “each person present in violation of Broward County Emergency Orders constitutes a separate violation subject to a $1,000 fine,” according to a Broward County FAQ page.

Nelson goes on to say that Broward County’s order violates constitutional Fourth Amendment rights that protect people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. He adds that it also violates the right to privacy in peoples’ homes.

“They have gone so overboard with violating the Fourth Amendment,” Nelson says. “The Constitution is still in play, even though people act like it’s not. How do they plan to enforce this without breaking the Fourth Amendment?”

Rep. Anthony Sabatini plans to file the lawsuit against the county’s order this week and will represent Nelson’s cause.

“I just think it’s a blatant violation of due process,” according to Sabatini. “People have a substantive right of association and reasonable expectation of privacy. This is a radical step in the wrong direction.”

He believes the ordinance would allow a suspicious neighbor to call the police on anyone they suspect has more than 10 people inside their home without masks, and could give police probable cause to get a search warrant.

“It’s such an invasion of privacy,” he says. “The classic case law in privacy is you have the legitimate expectation of privacy inside your own home.”

The suit is the latest example of pushback against local governments’ efforts to stop or slow the spread of the coronavirus, as the state continues to report an increase in cases and deaths. Miami-Dade continues to lead the state in both categories, while Broward has the second-highest number of cases and Palm Beach County is second in terms of fatalities.

Meanwhile, a vast majority of Florida voters reportedly want the state to require people to wear masks in public, according to a newly released survey.

A mask requirement has the support of 79 percent of Florida voters, based on a Quinnipiac University Poll released Thursday. Only 20 percent of voters oppose such a mandate.

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