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Is It a Crime to Infect Another Person With Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Countries around the globe are adopting harsh measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has killed nearly 15,000 worldwide as of March 22. Sweeping efforts to stop the deadly virus include shutting down airports and even completely closing borders.

Travel Restrictions and Border Closures in the U.S. During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Since March 13, the U.S. has banned entry of all foreign nationals who have traveled to a long list of countries 14 days before their arrival. The list can be viewed here, on the website of the Department of Homeland Security.

U.S. citizens and permanent residents who visited these countries must arrive at one of the 13 international airports to go through “enhanced entry screening.” On March 18, the United States closed its northern border with Canada to any non-essential traffic such as tourists and visitors. Two days later, on March 20, the U.S. and Mexico restricted non-essential travel for 30 days.

Are these travel restrictions and border closures truly effective in keeping people possibly infected with COVID-19 out of the country?

Could This Rarely-Used Fine Limit the Spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.?

There may still be hundreds or thousands of people making illegal entries into the U.S. without strong border security. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know how effective closing borders and travel restrictions are to prevent people infected with COVID-19 from coming to the country.

After all, it is impossible to determine how many people have succeeded in making illegal entries during the coronavirus pandemic. America’s problem with illegal immigration is not new. According to the DHS, the illegal immigrant population increased by 70,000 per year from 2010 to 2015.

Nolan Rappaport, an opinion contributor at The Hill, points to a rarely-used provision of the federal law to deter illegal attempts to enter the country. The law imposes substantial civil penalties against those who bring illegal immigrants to the U.S.

Under 8 U.S.C. §1323, any person or entity, including transportation companies and owners of any vessel and aircraft, is prohibited from bringing to the U.S. aliens who do not have a valid passport or visa.

Any violation of the provision would impose a $3,000 fine for each alien the person or entity brings to the U.S. unlawfully. In addition, the offender would be required to pay an amount equal to what the illegal immigrant paid for their transportation.

The only way to avoid the penalty is by showing that the carrier did not know and could not have reasonably known through the exercise of reasonable diligence that the transported individual had an invalid or expired passport or visa.

Can You Be Sued for Transmitting Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

As an increasing number of Americans contract the COVID-19 disease, some begin to wonder, “Can I sue another person for infecting me with coronavirus?” and “Can I sue an entity or facility for exposing me to the disease?

Currently, there is no specific law against infecting someone with coronavirus disease (COVID-19). At the same time, individuals with STDs may face criminal charges for transmitting their disease.

However, there could be a criminal liability if you can prove that the person who infected you with coronavirus was reckless. The Reckless Conduct statute – § 16-5-60 – would only apply if someone knowingly passes the coronavirus. A person’s conduct is reckless when it causes another person bodily harm or endangers another person’s safety, when the person acting consciously disregards that risk. To date, there is no case of criminal prosecution in Georgia under this law.

Also, cruise ships, nursing homes, hotels, hospitals, and other facilities could face civil liability for facilitating the spread of the COVID-19. Speak with Atlanta criminal defense lawyers if someone is accusing you of infecting them with the virus or you face a fine for bringing an illegal immigrant into the U.S. Contact Ghanayem & Rayasam, LLC, for a consultation. Call at (404) 561-0202 today.