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Is it a crime to meet in quarantine?

In the last few days, we have seen news about the arrest of people for congregating in enclosed areas to hold parties or meetings, called by the press as "Corona Parties"that in spite of of the existing restrictions decreed by the authorities due to the pandemic, have been recurrent in the different cities affected during the quarantine, generating fines and in some cases arrests of the participants.

Now, the question arises: Is it legal to arrest people for meeting clandestinely in groups without the necessary biosecurity measures to avoid contagion? What would be the legal status of people who do not comply with the mandatory quarantine decreed?

First of all, we must say that meeting in violation of the prohibition established by Decrees worldwide that provide for mandatory quarantine, is not a crimeWe must also point out that even when there are behaviors that may seem aberrant or dantesque, since they have not been previously established in the criminal law as a punishable act, they cannot be qualified as a crime (Principle of Legality), ergo the principle of minimum intervention, which establishes the last resort as the ratio The Spanish case is an example of this: during the state of alarm in Madrid, offenders were fined between 600 and 10,000 euros.

A bad practice of the security organs of some States has been legitimized. The aim is to criminalize a conduct that has a primary social order and has not been considered by the legislator to be penalized. In practice, people are apprehended and presented in hearings before criminal courts, charged with crimes of resisting authority or insulting a public official, crimes that have no relation to the underlying facts, however, they are applied collaterally as a deterrent to generate fear in other groups of the population and thus avoid the repetition of the conduct.

Venezuela: meeting in quarantine 

In Venezuela, "illegal" meetings in quarantine constitute a criminal offense known as disobedience to authority.Article 483 of the Penal Code in force, which subsumes the conduct of the offender as follows: "Whoever has disobeyed an order legally issued by the competent authority or has not observed any measure legally dictated by said authority in the interest of justice or public safety or health, shall be punished with arrest of five to thirty days, or a fine of twenty tax units (20 T.U.) to one hundred and fifty tax units (150 T.U.)."

Now then, in the Venezuelan case, it is necessary to point out a basic principle of criminal law which establishes as a fundamental requirement to decree personal coercive measures, that there is a punishable act that deserves a custodial sentence (art. 236 n° 1 of the COPP), therefore, these procedures must be carried out for the accused in total freedom. In addition, the procedure for misdemeanors is special and is carried out before the trial courts, and therefore the apprehension in flagrante delicto does not operate.

Administrative regulations may not be able to contain the limits of our society. However, this situation places us as a society in the dilemma of investing in education and raising awareness to strengthen the system of misdemeanors and monetary fines or penalizing behaviors as a classic method of social control.

Finally, at the law firm Alan Aldana & Abogados, we have specialists to advise and address concerns regarding the proper application of the legal consequences of non-compliance or non-observance of the rules that have been issued to regulate the state of emergency.

Written by:
Eduardo Mora R.