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Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office says it will ‘take no action’ to enforce Gov. Abbott’s statewide mask order

Medical masks
Medical masks (Pixabay)

A day after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas residents to cover their faces in public, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement announcing it would not enforce the statewide mask order.

According to the sheriff’s office, the order’s language preventing law enforcement from detaining, arresting, or confining to jail those who violated the order “strips law enforcement of the necessary tools to enforce compliance with the law.”

“The language included in the Governor’s order could subject our agency, and Montgomery County as a whole, to civil liability as stopping someone for a face covering related issue could be construed or misconstrued as a detention,” the statement read. “Additionally, holding someone for the purpose of issuing a citation related to a fine is a legally defined detention under current Texas Law.”

RELATED: Gov. Abbott’s executive order requires all Texans to wear masks or face coverings in public

MCSO said calls for service reporting a violation of the statewide mask mandate will only be dispatched if the reportee is an authorized supervisory representative of a business or property and  is reporting that a person is refusing to leave the property after receiving notice to leave and a disturbance is occurring.

“We are in a public health crisis and we will use this opportunity to educate our community while still respecting individual liberties,” the statement read. “Let’s work together to ensure Montgomery County remains a safe place to live and work. We encourage all citizens to take reasonable precautions in their own life to mitigate possible exposure by following all Health Department guidelines.”

Abbott issued the statewide executive order requiring Texans to wear masks or face coverings in public spaces in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases, with few exceptions. The order went into effect on Friday, July 3 at noon.

Though for months, Abbott was against issuing a statewide mask order, daily coronavirus cases totals have swelled in the past few weeks and he has slowly rolled back reopening measures and even shuttered the state’s bars to help mitigate the spread of the virus.

RELATED: Here’s what will happen if you’re caught violating Gov. Abbott’s mask order

Those who violate the order will receive a verbal warning upon their first offense. Those who violate the order a again face fine of up to $250. Every subsequent violation is punishable by a fine of up to $250.

The order prohibits officials from arresting or jailing anyone who is found in violation of the order.

The order reads, that “no law enforcement or other official may detain, arrest, or confine in jail any person for a violation of this executive order or for related non-violent, non-felony offenses that are predicated on a violation of this executive order; provided, however, that any official with authority to enforce this executive order may act to enforce trespassing laws and remove violators at the request of a business establishment or other property owner.”

Read the Montgomery County Sheriff’s statement in its entirety below: 

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will take NO actions to enforce the Governor’s Office Executive Order GA-29 issued on July 2, 2020 regarding the mandatory use of face masks in public.

This order includes specific language prohibiting law enforcement from detaining, arresting, or confining to jail as a means to enforce the order. This language strips law enforcement of the necessary tools to enforce compliance with the law.

The language included in the Governor’s order could subject our agency, and Montgomery County as a whole, to civil liability as stopping someone for a face covering related issue could be construed or misconstrued as a detention. Additionally, holding someone for the purpose of issuing a citation related to a fine is a legally defined detention under current Texas Law.

Calls for service reporting a violation of GA-29 will only be dispatched if the reportee is an authorized supervisory representative of the business or property AND is reporting that a person is refusing to leave the property after receiving notice to leave and a disturbance is occurring. Deputies arriving at these types of calls will follow the normal established procedures.

We are in a public health crisis and we will use this opportunity to educate our community while still respecting individual liberties. Let’s work together to ensure Montgomery County remains a safe place to live and work. We encourage all citizens to take reasonable precautions in their own life to mitigate possible exposure by following all Health Department guidelines.


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