• Patricia Brandt, Attorney

Ohio's Various Mandatory Face Mask Laws

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Violation of Your Rights or Constitutional Legal Mandate?

On any given day I would support a person's right to engage in self-destructive behavior. Want to drink 24 beers at home after work every day? Ok. But when that selfish behavior has an impact upon society, let's say drinking 24 beers daily in the parking lot after work then recklessly driving on public streets while intoxicated, then I don't support it. No one does.

Despite what circulates on social media, medical experts agree that wearing a mask in public is a key countermeasure in combating the coronavirus pandemic because it helps slow the infection rate. Even cloth face masks can help curb community spread of coronavirus, in part by reducing transmission by people who are infected but experience no symptoms.

To abate a public health menace, Ohio can order its citizens to wear masks and enforce that order with criminal penalties. If the state of Ohio can compel you to be involuntarily vaccinated or quarantined in your home (and it can), then those greater powers necessarily include the lesser directive of wearing a mask—a minor inconvenience that officials consider necessary not just for your self-preservation, but to protect your fellow Ohioans.

This is about more than any one person—defying the mask order is bad for everyone. The coronavirus pandemic is the kind of extraordinary circumstance when the public good outweighs individual inconvenience. During a viral plague, the state can limit otherwise sacrosanct constitutional rights when those limits are necessary to defend public health. And until public safety is restored, some individual civil liberties may yield to Ohio’s inherent police powers to combat a pandemic. It is settled law that “quarantine laws [and] health laws of every description” are valid state police power measures. Gibbons v. Ogden. Even severe state acts such as compulsory adult vaccination are lawful. Jacobson v. Massachusetts. The federal and Ohio constitutions permit the state to order its citizens to wear masks when it is necessary to protect the public from a viral outbreak.

Beyond that, Ohio statutory law gives the governor and state public health officials broad powers to battle public health emergencies. IF you are interested in the stunning powers written in these laws, check out Ohio R.C. § 3701.13, Ohio R.C. § 3707.08, Ohio R.C. § 707.15, Ohio R.C. § 3707.09, & Ohio R.C. § 3707.31 just for starters.

So yes, Ohio citizens can be mandated to wear face masks while in public, but that should not be the metric here. The governor is begging us to use common sense and neighborly charity. Temporarily bearing the minor burden of wearing a mask in public protects you and everyone you encounter against unintentionally spreading the virus. Ultimately, this is not about whether the governor can force you to do something, it is about saving your Ohio.

All information displayed on the Brandt Law Ltd. website is informational and shall not be deemed as legal advice. If you’re currently dealing with an individual legal situation, you’re invited to contact me through email or by phone. Until an attorney-client relationship has been established, I urge that you avoid sharing any confidential information.

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