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What are the legalities of enforcing the mask mandate in Houston?

HOUSTON – A month after being told to cover up, Houston’s mayor now says people who don’t follow the governor’s mask order could be fined.

“When you’re in public, you’re around other persons, please put on your mask or you run the risk of receiving a citation,” Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Monday.

The mayor said the first violation comes with a warning and the second with a $250 citation from the police, which is in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order.

“I think that’s a good idea. I feel like they should’ve did this from the jump and it wouldn’t have gotten so bad,” said Monique Chambers.

But not everyone supports the move.

“The fine is just, that’s ridiculous,” said Lynn Tyler. “That’s too much.”

The governor’s order says people can’t be sent to jail for not wearing a mask, but what about not paying the fine?

“Ultimately, nobody goes to jail because they can’t pay,” said KPRC 2 legal analyst Brian Wice.

But Wice pointed out that can’t pay and won’t pay are two different things. He said someone who simply refuses to pay could possibly be held in contempt of court.

Wice also said judges can take other routes, like using community service.

“I think law enforcement wants to sure that nobody has to empty their pockets but at the end of the day, they mask up,” Wice said.

The mayor said people who meet the criteria for one of the exceptions in the order will not be cited.

Police will issue the warnings and citations while they are out and about in the community but will not respond to 911 calls about mask violations, Turner said.