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Can a Winter Storm Travel Ban Get You Arrested?

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on January 26, 2015 3:58 PM

The Northeast is preparing for a snowstorm that could bring what The New York Times calls "near hurricane-force winds." the governors of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey have declared states of emergency, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordering a shutdown of the New York City subway and bus systems starting at 11 o'clock tonight.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took the additional step of declaring a travel ban, also starting at 11 p.m. this evening. What does such a ban mean, and what happens if you disobey the order?

A State of Emergency

New York state law empowers the chief executive of any county or city -- like a mayor -- to declare a local state of emergency and issue orders establishing curfews, preventing people from being on the road, and close "places of amusement and assembly."

Knowingly violating an emergency order is a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $500 and/or a sentence of no more than three months in a county or regional correctional facility. Officers have the discretion to do everything from citing an offender to arresting him.

Walk, Don't Drive (On 2nd Thought, Don't Even Walk)

De Blasio's order requires non-emergency vehicles to be off the streets by 11 p.m. He was quick to point out that the ban applies to any vehicle that's not an emergency one, even food delivery bicycles. First responders and "essential" public servants, however, will be permitted to use the roads.

The order doesn't apply to foot traffic on a sidewalk, so residents who absolutely have to get somewhere in a non-emergency can still walk there -- though given the extreme measures the city and state are imposing, it's probably not a good idea. However, if de Blasio did want people to remain inside, period, he could have issued a curfew requiring everyone to remain indoors after 11 p.m. (As of this posting, there is no curfew in place.)

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued a similar order that applies to the entire state of Connecticut and will take effect at 9 p.m. The penalty for violating that state's driving restrictions could be a $92 fine, according to the Hartford Courant.

Malloy said, however, that police and state troopers wouldn't be towing cars that violated the ban, as they would probably have more important things to worry about.

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