Indiana Republican Governor Eric Holcomb is set to sign a new executive order that will make it a Class B misdemeanor to be caught in public not wearing a mask, with a penalty ranging from a fine to up to six months in jail if caught bare faced.
Officers throughout Indiana will be expected to stop and arrest citizens who are caught in public indoor, outdoor spaces, or in transport like taxis, while not wearing a mask. Those caught without a mask may face jail time for their offense. The law will apply to residents who are 8-years-old and older.
Holcomb acknowledged that the order will be difficult to enforce, and does not expect officers to become “mask police” who patrol streets hunting the unmasked, but hints that this could become reality if Indiana residents refuse to “do the right thing.”
“We don’t want it to get to the point where misdemeanors come into play,” said Holcomb. “We don’t think we’re there yet.”
Holcomb received sharp push back across the state for his decision to make refusing to wear a mask a misdemeanor using an executive order.
Attorney General Curtis Hill advised Holcomb not to attempt to enact his mask law using an executive order, and instead call an emergency legislative session.
“The wisdom of wearing masks, or of laws requiring such measures, is not the issue here,” said Hill. “Rather, the issue is whether we are following the proper and constitutional processes for enacting laws and whether we are respecting the distinct roles of each branch of state government.”
Law enforcement agencies throughout Indiana say they intend to refuse to enforce the law, with many saying not wearing a mask does not constitute a crime in any way.
“Washington and Loogootee police departments both released similar statements,” reported WTHI-TV. “Both say that ‘the refusal or failure for any one individual to wear a mask in public does not constitute a crime,'” and “Both ask for residents to be respectful of each other regardless of their support of the mandate.”
Knox county sheriff Doug Vantlin also said that though the governor “has all good intentions for the people in the state,” there are “some questions that arise with this. That we’re not going to enforce it.”
The executive order is expected to be signed and go into effect on July 27.