North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association gives information to local offices

Updated: Dec. 14, 2020 at 10:26 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Governor Roy Cooper is asking local leaders for help enforcing restrictions outlined in his new executive order.

He sent a letter to local governments on Monday asking them to consider civil penalties for violators to give law enforcement more flexibility to enforce the order.

Most sheriff’s offices and police departments are focusing on education using citations as a last resort. With each executive order that has been put in place, the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association has provided information to the 100 elected sheriffs across North Carolina.

One thing the association hasn’t done, is tell them how to enforce the orders.

“It is up to each individual sheriff’s office and each police department and each state law enforcement agency as to how they choose to enforce it,” said Eddie Caldwell the Executive VP, General Counsel/North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association. “But our goal is to give clearly written, easy to understand, practical, and legally correct information. And it’s not our role to decide for them or suggest how they should act upon it.”

Eddie Caldwell would not address specifically whether an officer, deputy, or trooper pulling someone over for a curfew violation is constitutional, he would only speak to the law.

“Under the law, an officer would have to have an articulable and reasonable suspicion to believe that the person was violating the law,” said Caldwell. “Certainly, someone driving down the highway with no other information or evidence available...that would not rise to the level by itself to an articulable and reasonable suspicion that the person was violating the law.”

And with each new executive order issued during this pandemic, there are exceptions.

“When folks see people without a mask or see them out after the curfew time, they immediately jump to the conclusion that that person is violating the governor’s executive order,” said Caldwell. “The person might be, and the person might not be. But the law enforcement officer has no way of knowing and has no articulable and reasonable suspicion to stop the citizen absent some other evidence, so it is a complicated issue.”

The governor’s current executive order is in place until January 8th, unless it is repealed or replaced by a new one.

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