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Lawmaker requests clarity from Gov. Wolf after troopers ticket woman for taking a drive while under stay-at-home order

Anita Shaffer, 19, is now faced with a citation of at least $202.25 for what State Police say is failing to abide by the Governor's stay-at-home order.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — A York County woman is facing a citation of $200 from State Police for what they say violated Governor Tom Wolf's stay-at-home order.

Anita Shaffer, 19, is now faced with what appears to be a citation of at least $202.25 for breaking the state’s Disease Control and Prevention Act of 1955.

That is one of two applicable statutes that can be applied in these cases, according to State Police.

The incident in question occurred on March 29 around 8:00 p.m. in Red Lion, when Shaffer was pulled over by State Police.

Troopers said that Shaffer told them she was just taking a drive.

Per Governor Wolf's order, Pennsylvanians are supposed to be staying at home, unless it's considered essential, which you can read about on the Governor's website. The same website states Pennsylvania State Police should be focused on informing the public about what that means rather than enforcement, which is why the citation is confusing to some people and even a local lawmaker.

"You erode public trust," said Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill, who represents York County, where Shaffer lives, when asked about the citation. "These are really uncertain times for so many people."

Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill is calling for 'clarity not confusion' from Governor Wolf. 

State Police Communications Director Ryan Tarkowski says that this citation has been the only instance of enforcement thus far, and began as a vehicle-code violation. Therefore, he says, Shaffer was not pulled over for violating the stay-at-home order.

It may be the only citation issued, but the York County lawmaker says it's having a ripple effect.

"This is kind of unsettling," added Phillips-Hill. "I've had people say, you know, I just want to go out on my motorcycle and go and take a ride, and ask, 'am I allowed to do that?'" 

On the citation, it states Shaffer “failed to abide by the order of the Governor and Secretary of Health issued to control the spread of a communicable disease, requiring the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses as of 20:00 hours on March 29, 2020. To wit, defendant states that she was ‘going for a drive’ after this violation was in effect.”

FOX43 sent in a question during the Governor's daily press conference. 

"Are people not allowed to go for a drive? And do you agree with this citation?" asked Jackie DeTore.

However, FOX43 did not get an answer directly from Governor Wolf or his office. The question was forwarded to the Pennsylvania State Police. Tarkowski issued statements to FOX43:

Sunday Drives are not essential travel. Does that mean that everyone who goes for a drive will get cited/warned? Obviously not. There are no roadblocks, check points, etc. Decisions to warn/cite are made based on the totality of the unique circumstances of each encounter. But to reiterate, Stay at Home means stay at home.

He added:

At this time, law enforcement is focused on ensuring that residents are aware of the order and informing the public of social distancing practices.  While the order is mandatory, voluntary compliance is preferred. Troopers have been encouraged to use contacts with the public as opportunities to reinforce the necessity to abide Stay At Home orders. Troopers maintain discretion to warn or issue citations and the decision is specific to the facts and circumstances of a particular encounter.

Similar to business owners operating in violation of the order to suspend in-person operation of non-life-sustaining businesses, individuals MAY be cited for failing to abide by the “stay at home” order. Applicable statutes are:

•    The Pennsylvania's Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, 35 P.S. § 521.20(a)

•    The Administrative Code of 1929, 71 P. S. § 1409

More info on each is available here.

Tarkowski also said COVID-19 is a public health emergency "that we can't enforce our way out of. It will take everyone in the community working together."

However, Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill would add it also takes some clarity from the Governor's office.

"Give us the clarity," she said. "Don't give us confusion because confusion leads to chaos, and that is not a good thing in these perilous and unprecedented times."