Are Quarantine Checkpoints Even Legal And Could They Be Expanded To The Entire State?
Quarantine checkpoints are being set up on bridges, tunnels, and other New York City entry points to help enforce Governor Cuomo's 14-day quarantine for people that have been in one of the states on the governor's travel advisory list. That list is growing almost every day. Currently, there are less than 20 states that aren't under the quarantine advisory.
My question when I first heard this was, is this even legal? The short answer is yes and New York state already has a precedent for these checkpoints. At airports around the state, there are quarantine enforcement booths to make travelers aware of the 14-day rule and for them to fill out forms with contact information.
According to the National Law Review, Both the federal government and the states have the authority to impose quarantines and travel restrictions to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents. While the authorities vary from state to state, violating such orders is generally a misdemeanor criminal offense.
An article from the American Bar Association quoted the University of California at Los Angeles law professor, Eugene Volokh “When there really is an epidemic, and people from outside a state seem to pose a higher risk than people within the state, I think that, for instance, stopping all cars at the border or all cars with out-of-state plates, and perhaps ordering them to quarantine themselves for some days if they are from outside the state, is likely to be seen as a reasonable seizure."
What makes this new checkpoint plan different from the Rhode Island rule that was proposed back in April. The one that Governor Cuomo said was unconstitutional is that the police were going to stop every car with New York license plates. They were targeting the citizens from one state and denying them entry into Rhode Island. The NYC checkpoint will pull a random sample of vehicles over whether they have out of state plates or not. So that way they aren't targeting one particular state.
So there you go, it's legal. What exactly will be going on at these checkpoints? New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio said that law enforcement at the checkpoints will educate travelers about New York State home-quarantine orders. Travelers coming in from advisory states must complete travel health forms to support contact tracing efforts. It's unclear what happens if someone at the checkpoint admits they haven't been quarantining. However, they could face fines up to $10,000. By the way, you can expect a whole bunch of YouTube videos showing people at these checkpoints refusing to answer questions, saying it violates their constitutional rights and generally being a pain in the butt for those manning the checkpoints.
So, could these quarantine checkpoints be expanded to include the rest of the state? Technically, they could, but in practice, I seriously doubt they would. There are just too many roads leading into New York to set up checkpoints. Really the best they can do is to continue to educate travelers and hope for the best.