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Why Los Angeles’ Face Covering Law May Be Both Right and Unconstitutional

Los Angeles County made a major step in April to halt the spread of Coronavirus. However, as we find below, many well-intentioned laws also trample upon civil liberties. As the old saying goes– the road to hell…

What Does the Lawyer Say?

Los Angeles injury attorney, Michael Ehline, has decades of experience in the legal field. In particular, after service in the United States Marine Corps, he developed an attuned sense of the reach of government. By studying under a judge before receiving his JD, Ehline sees the practical side of such “good faith” laws. He says he also sees the potential restrictions inherent in them.

Where to Start?

The Los Angeles Times reported on the law-making face coverings mandatory for all those heading into the public.

The Good.

There is ample evidence supporting the idea that face masks reduce the transmission of diseases like COVID-19. The Mayo Clinic states that such masks are an effective means of reducing pathogens spreading from person to person. In short, the idea is that breath is blocked on both ends– in and out– by the masks. In particular, the masks are most helpful in keeping moisture in. This allows people with the disease to significantly reduce the chance of spreading it.

The new law mandates only that masks are worn. This likely means that some impromptu masks made of regular cloth or bandanas will be far less effective than wearing surgical masks. However, there is a high chance that this could reduce the risk of getting– or spreading the disease. This is especially the case for indoors contact.

The Bad.

The short version is that such laws likely run counter to the Constitution. Private businesses may– and perhaps should– mandate the use of masks in their establishments. However, such local controls run against several critical legal principles.

Freedom of Association.

In all likelihood, restricting the ability to travel without a mask is not legally kosher. Specific uses can be mandated by the government, including stepping into publicly-owned buildings. However, in cases including outdoor areas and businesses, this is likely not the case.

Open-Ended Nature of the Law. The law will be enforced as long as the pandemic continues. How long is that? Does that mean when a vaccine is available? Does that mean when there are zero cases? Furthermore, where is the metric that shows when we won’t risk a fine for traveling outdoors uncovered? Besides, the legal grounds for mandating such a provision are flimsy if based on arbitrary numbers.

Restrictions on Businesses. As stated above, perhaps businesses should require masks. However, there is little Constitutional evidence that the civil liberties of both customers and companies can be restricted by government fiat. This includes a law passed by a county.

In all likelihood, there will be legal challenges against such a mandate. And this will go especially far when there is a reduction of the caseload in both Los Angeles and California. We will report on the legal challenges and means for citizens to keep their rights while fighting the virus.

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