Illinois’ Shelter In Place Order: Explained


On March 21, 2020, the Governor of Illinois instituted a mandatory “shelter in place” executive order that has been extended until April 30, as of now. The order can be summed up as this: except for a few exceptions, you need to stay home.

Essentially, you are only allowed to leave home for:

  1. Essential tasks. This includes grocery shopping, walking pets, getting outdoor exercise alone, or with a household member.
  2. Essential jobs: the Governor’s order outlines who qualifies to leave the house to go to work. While places like hair salons and dine-in restaurants are not allowed, professional services and critical labor are allowed.
  3. Essential travel: this includes custody exchanges for children and to care for the elderly.

The stay at home order has left many people wondering: if I violate the order, is it a crime?

Technically, it is a violation of Chicago’s municipal code not to stay at home when required to do so. This can be punishable by a fine or by an arrest as it is a failure to obey a health order. This is an ordinance violation and is less serious than a misdemeanor or felony which would appear on your criminal record.

Chicago police are authorized to give you a ticket with a fine of $500, or they can arrest you.

However, the Governor and the Mayor of Chicago have all stressed that this Order is meant to be in the best interest and health of everyone, and in that spirit, you should stay home. The City’s website has a list of a lot of frequently asked questions. There, the City of Chicago stresses this Order is not meant to punish anyone, but it is mandatory. The City tries to instill in the residents it is their responsibility to “do your part” by staying home.

Mayor Lightfoot has said that people should be given a warning first, but if they persist, they will be given a ticket. And if the officers have to “go beyond that” then they will arrest if need be.

The Chicago Police Department issued what’s called a “directive” or policy specifically for how to handle cases during the pandemic. You can read it here. It encourages people to issue tickets, also called an administrative notice of violation (ANOV) whenever possible. These are punishable by up to $500 fines. However, there are times when the police are required to make an arrest. These include:

  • The person is under 18
  • The person fails to produce valid ID
  • The police had to use force and a tactical response report is required
  • The likelihood the offense will continue or reoccur, or there is danger to life or property
  • Unauthorized Use of Weapon (UUW) cases
  • DUIs
  • Bond violation, order of protection violations, violations of stalking no-contact orders or domestic violence cases
  • Damage to public property
  • Other weapons violation
  • Warrant for the person’s arrest

Finally, if you are given a ticket or ANOV, you will be required to sign it. If you refuse to sign, the officer will warn you they have the right to arrest you. If you still refuse to sign, it will be up to the officer to decide if he wants to arrest you.

We encourage everyone to stay safe. If you encounter a situation where you are accused of violating the shelter in place order, please reach out to us for help.

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