The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed life as Americans know it. Nearly every part of American life has been changed one way or another by the virus and the resulting social distancing and stay at home orders. Unfortunately, some are also facing wrongful allegations of criminal misconduct during this time, perhaps as a result of overzealous policing or misunderstandings between neighbors.
U.S. Attorney General on Crime related to COVID-19
In mid-March, Attorney General William Barr told federal prosecutors to expedite investigations concerning people who choose to exploit the coronavirus outbreak. His memo to attorneys across the nation mentioned reports of online sales of fake cures for coronavirus as well as individuals posing as public health officials and sending scam emails. Barr told attorneys that these types of crimes "cannot be tolerated."
He went on to note that this outbreak is perilous in itself, without criminals attempting to profit from an already anxious population. Barr stated that "It is essential that the Department of Justice remains vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis." Reassuring to the American people, Barr expressed that despite the shutdown of many sectors in our nation, the DOJ will continue to ensure that law enforcement divisions effectively operate even during the pandemic. The safety and security of the nation will be protected.
DOJ Releases Memo on COVID-19 as a Biological Weapon
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen expressed in a later memo to federal law enforcement agencies and U.S. attorneys that anyone who intentionally spreads the novel coronavirus would be charged with terrorism. He explained that the virus likely meets the statutory definition of a biological agent. Statutes related to terrorism could be applied to anyone who attempts to infect others. Rosen wrote in his memo that any threats or attempts against Americans involving the use of COVID-19 as a weapon would not be acceptable. Such efforts will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The deputy attorney general explains that there have already been many reports of pandemic-related fraudulent and criminal behavior. These include:
- Robocalls fraudulently attempting to sell respirator masks with no intention of following through with a product delivery
- Fake coronavirus apps and websites that install malware
"Capitalizing on this crisis to reap illicit profits or otherwise preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated," Rosen wrote.
Call a Knowledgeable Austin Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
At Granger and Mueller PC, we have been representing clients in Travis County since 1993. When you come to our firm, you can expect an honest evaluation of your circumstances, the charges against you, and the steps needed to protect your interests. Our passion for effective defenses and providing our clients with justice drives us to do all that we can to help you. Whether your charges are related to the coronavirus or something else, we are always here for you.
To schedule your free case consultation with an Austin criminal defense lawyer, call 512-474-9999 or complete our online contact form.