During coronavirus pandemic, can you be arrested for not wearing a mask?

New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, parts of California have ordered people to wear masks in public

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Masks and similar face coverings have become a normal part of life amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Public health officials hope that by urging the public to cover their noses and mouths while in public, people can contain the spread of the virus and, in turn, flatten the curve. Over time, a number of local governments began asking residents to do so while inside public places, and, in some cases, while outside.

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But could people be arrested if they don't?

Typically, the answer is no. A person can, however, be fined or receive a summons for failing to wear a mask, depending on the state, but police and officials from throughout the country have largely asked that people voluntarily comply with the rule.

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When New York Gov. Cuomo announced on April 15 he would be requiring people to wear masks in public, he noted, according to the New York Times, the state would only issue civil – not criminal – penalties.

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“You’re not going to go to jail for not wearing a mask,” he said at the time.

Other states, such as New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan and parts of California, have ordered residents to do so, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended such precautions are taken.

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villaneuva expressed a similar idea about the way police planned to handle cases involving people who are not wearing masks.

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“We are looking for voluntary compliance. We have discussed it with all the police chiefs in the county,” Villaneuva said, according to the L.A. Times. “We aren’t talking enforcement here.”

Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, such as Laredo, Texas, officials can reportedly impose fines of up to $1,000.

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