Law & Principles, Culture & the Family

In Norman, buying groceries may result in fine, jail

April 3, 2020

Ray Carter

A recent “stay at home” order issued by Norman Mayor Breea Clark requires citizens of Norman to restrict shopping to odd or even days, based on a citizen’s home address, as part of the city’s response to COVID-19.

“Customers of essential businesses shall, to the extent possible, limit visits to said businesses on an odd/even basis using their home address,” the order states. “For example, if one’s residence address is 123 City Street, he or she would shop on odd numbered days only to help limit the number of customers at any given time.”

Under the order, citizens caught shopping on the wrong day may be ordered to pay a fine of $750 and face 60 days in jail per violation.

“The Norman Police Department is empowered to enforce this ordinance but is encouraged to use an education, warning, then citation approach to enforcement,” the order states.

However, it was not clear how the order would be enforced with any consistency, particularly since the order also exempts numerous citizens from its restrictions, including the shopping mandate.

The order explicitly exempts all “first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, law enforcement personnel, and others working for, or to support, Essential Businesses …”

Based on the order’s language, police will have to determine a citizen-shopper’s address and if the shopper’s profession falls into any of the “essential” categories outlined in the order before a violation has occurred.

Essential businesses specifically listed in the order include healthcare operations, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, food banks, convenience stores, liquor stores, stores that sell groceries and also sell other non-grocery products, stores that sell products necessary to maintaining residential sanitation, newspapers, television, radio, gas stations, auto-supply stores, auto-repair businesses, banks, hardware stores, stores that sell telecommunication and video devices, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, laundromats, dry cleaners, laundry service providers, railroads, restaurants providing delivery or carry out, businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home, businesses that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate, airlines, taxis and private transportation providers, home-based care for seniors, childcare facilities, and more.

Rickey J. Knighton II, assistant city attorney for the City of Norman, said enforcement would be handled “on a complaint basis only.”

NOTE: This story has been updated since publication to include a comment from the office of the Norman city attorney.