by Scott McClallen
Thousands of Michiganders are wondering if criminal charges and fines levied against them are still valid after the Michigan Supreme Court last Friday ruled Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders issued after April 30 are illegal.
Some don’t have answers – yet.
Owosso barber Karl Manke’s attorney David Kallman told The Center Square he’s expecting Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office to drop criminal charges against Manke, who operated his barbershop in violation of Whitmer’s orders.
The administrative charges through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs are unclear.
“We’ve got criminal cases all over the state for gym owners,” Kallman said. “I’m expecting all of those to be dismissed shortly.”
Over 2,500 Detroiters were ticketed by the Detroit Police Department (DPD) from April 14 through May 18, according to Michigan Capitol Confidential.
DPD hasn’t answered a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the total number of people ticketed from May through Aug. 3, although the FOIA was due Aug. 25.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said it’s awaiting guidance.
The Ann Arbor Police Department issued one COVID-19 ticket while the Grand Rapids Police department gave none as of Aug. 3, according to documents obtained through FOIA.
It isn’t immediately clear if those misdemeanor charges and fines will be dropped.
Law enforcement and state agencies ticketed Michiganders ranging from barbers to gym owners for violating Whitmer’s orders.
Gary Marshall, owner of FitStop24 in Niles and Dowagiac, reopened on June 1 – three months before Whitmer allowed gyms to open.
Marshall said his fines totaled $18,000, which he never paid.
Marshall told The Center Square he reopened soon after Whitmer announced she was reopening bars.
“Obesity was one of the major leading factors why people were hospitalized because of [COVID-19],” Marshall said.
Thirty-one percent of adult Michiganders are classified as obese.
COVID-19 was the sole contributing cause of fewer than 450 COVID-19-related deaths in Michigan since the beginning of the pandemic through September, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Marshall stopped charging customer accounts March 16, which immediately affected the life of his landlord and his two children and wife. After nearly three months, he said, he was forced to reopen.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Marshall said. “Financially, if I wouldn’t have opened when I opened, I would have lost everything.
“This is my livelihood. This is my children’s future. This is my mortgage,” Marshall continued. “This is my life savings, and it’s about to be gone while other businesses’ are having record-breaking years. It didn’t make sense.”
Nessel’s Press Secretary Ryan Jarvi, citing the Friday ruling, said they “will no longer enforce the Governor’s Executive Orders through criminal prosecution.”
“However, her decision is not binding on other law enforcement agencies or state departments with independent enforcement authority,” Jarvi said in a statement.
Following Friday’s ruling, Marshall said the county prosecutor told him his case was dismissed.
“I was ready to go to jail,” Marshall said, adding that he was originally charged with about 30 misdemeanors. “It’s always been about taking care of my family first and foremost, but it became more than that. I wanted to prove that what I was doing was right, and I had all the data and science to back me up.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.