San Diego County

Advice from a Defense Attorney: Don't Attend a House Party This Weekend

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If you're throwing a Fourth of July party and plan on inviting anyone outside of those living under your roof, you do so at your own risk.

And perhaps the risk of those you invited. 

Law enforcement is focused on enforcing the county health order in the public settings, especially this holiday weekend, but private in-home gatherings are still prohibited and violators can face criminal charges.  

The idea that a backyard barbeque with friends constitutes a criminal act may be hard to swallow. Nonetheless, health order violators can face jail time and a fine of $1,000 according to state criminal codes under the circumstances of a pandemic.

We've seen or heard about shutdown notices served at some San Diego County restaurants for violating the Public Health Order, but could deputies or police come knocking on your door next?

 “There should be teeth behind persons who flaunt this and create an undo risk for others,” criminal defense attorney Marc Kohnen said.

Kohnen thinks large parties over the Fourth of July weekend will attract attention and likely an uptick in citations. 

“It’s punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of 1000 dollars,” he reiterated.

San Diego County’s current health order states residents should stay at home except to take care of essential needs, go to an essential job, go to reopened businesses or go out for exercise.

If law enforcement sees an obvious violation such as a large gathering even at a private home, Kohnen said they’re obligated to act.

"It's such a serious risk that it is understandable that in these times you have to take precautions,” he said.

While it's not yet been litigated, Kohnen said party goers could sue their host if it was proven they contracted coronavirus at a private gathering.

"Theoretically you could, under the social host theory that has created civil liability for parents who host parties for underage kids to drink irresponsibly,” he explained.

So if you’re tempted to throw or attend a party this weekend, Kohnen is offering some free council.

"The temporary loss of being able to gather with others is not worth the harm it could cause."

Kohnen said health order violations are misdemeanors, not crimes that could prompt law enforcement entering your house without a warrant or your permission.

NBC 7 reached out to local law enforcement and the county, and while there will be a greater police presence over the holiday weekend, specific answers to questions regarding enforcement on private property were not given.

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