FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 27, 2020

1851 Fights 90 Days in Jail for “Disobedient” Ohio Diner Owner

1851 Center Moves to Dismiss Criminal Charges in State’s First Criminal Case for Violating Pandemic Orders

Cambridge, OH – The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law today moved to dismiss the criminal charges against an Ohio restaurant owner who opened her restaurant one week early.

The motion is filed on behalf of National Road Diner owner Vicki Brearley of Cambridge, who faces 90 days in jail solely because, according to the prosecution, she “did violate an order the Director of Health issued to prevent a threat to the public caused by a pandemic” by “allowing sit down dining” on May 6, 2020.

The case is believed to be the first prosecution of an Ohio business owner for disobedience with the Orders of Health Director Amy Acton, and the first prosecution in the 134-year history of the quarantine statute.

“Ohioans should remain alert that the real-world consequence of seemingly-amicable ‘public health’ regulations is the violent caging of peaceful dissenters who have done no harm,” explained 1851 Center Executive Director Maurice Thompson. “But Ohioans ought not fear:  the Ohio Constitution prevents the State from criminalizing mere ‘disobedience with any order.’”

The 1851 Center’s motion to dismiss the charges posits as follows:

  • Only the Ohio General Assembly may criminalize conduct, and it must do so with specificity.
  • If the Ohio General Assembly has delegated to the Director of Health the unfettered power to create her own crimes, then that delegation is impermissibly vague and violates the Ohio Constitution’s separation of powers.
  • Insofar as they attempt to impose criminal penalties, the Director’s Orders are “void” because, pursuant to a prominent portion of the Ohio General Assembly’s 2015 criminal justice reforms, the Orders fail to “specify the degree of mental culpability required for commission of the offense.”

In addition, the 1851 Center emphasizes that while no Ohioan has been prosecuted for violating “any quarantine order” in the past 130 years, the only court to have addressed the issue, in the 1851 Center’s recent victory in Rock House Fitness v. Acton, determined that the Director lacked the authority to close businesses or unilaterally criminalize otherwise lawful conduct.

The Director’s April 30, 2020 “Stay Safe Ohio Order” purported to keep Ohio restaurants closed. However, that Order was lifted just several days after the May 11 charges were filed against Mrs. Brearley.

The case is pending before Judge John M. Nicholson of the Cambridge Municipal Court in Guernsey County.

Read the 1851 Center’s Motion HERE.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law is a non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse. The 1851 Center litigates constitutional issues related to property rights, regulation, taxation, and search and seizures.