In my city, face masks are required by emergency order in all public places with violations subject to a $300 fine. Though the vast majority of people have complied with this order (indeed they mostly complied before the order went into effect), a stubborn few refuse to wear masks.

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Generally calling the police about this is not effective, because the violator is long gone by the time they arrive.

What can I as a citizen do about this? Can I detain the violator? Can I sue them for endangering my health and the health of others?

  • What city/state/country? – BlueDogRanch May 25 '20 at 16:35
  • @BlueDogRanch Added link to order, but I'd like an answer that addressed this with reference to different citizen powers an how they vary (since many places around the world have such rules, and will for years). – orome May 25 '20 at 16:49

You may not assault a violator, you may notify the authorities. If your state has passed a law making it a felony to be outside without a mask, you can perform a citizen's arrest (but no state has such a law). So you cannot take the law into you own hands, and you run the risk of being arrested on felony assault charges if you do. There is always a significant risk that you are wrong about whether the order applies to a particular individual.

You can always file a lawsuit, but you'd be in highly-experimental legal territory in terms of succeeding, specifically the claim that the person endangered your health (you can't sue on behalf of others, except e.g. as a parent on behalf of harm done to a child). For instance, nobody has successfully sued another person for going out in public having the flu on the grounds that they unreasonably put plaintiff at risk. You would have to experiment with that argument, to show that going out with a mask is reasonable and going out without a mask is unreasonable.

  • 1
    Can you say more about what you mean by "highly-experimental"? Would it be risky to do so (e.g., potentially frivolous)? – orome May 25 '20 at 16:50
  • Also on the requirement of the law making it a felony: is that true in other places (e.g. the UK)? – orome May 25 '20 at 16:51
  • One big issue with filing a lawsuit is gathering enough evidence that the individual went out without a face mask ... without getting your camera destroyed and your person assaulted in the process. – John Dvorak May 25 '20 at 16:53

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