Sharon Hurt, an at-large member of the Nashville Metro Council, suggested this week that people who do not wear a face mask, but spread coronavirus, should be hit with attempted murder or murder charges.
During an August 5 meeting between the city’s Public Safety, Beer & Regulated Beverages and Health, Hospitals, & Social Services committees, Hurt asked whether the council could enact legislation criminally charging people who don’t wear face coverings in a similar fashion HIV-positive people who knowingly spread HIV without informing partners.
My question goes back to legislation. I don’t know if Mike Jameson could be the one to answer the question, but my concern is — you know I work for an organization, that if they pass a virus, then they are tried for murder or attempted murder, if they are not told … and this person who may very well pass this virus that’s out in the air because they’re not wearing a mask is basically doing the same thing to someone who contracts it and dies from it.
It seems to me that we have been more reactive, as opposed to proactive, and a little too late, too little. So, my thing is, maybe there should be legislation, stronger legislation, I don’t know if Mike Jameson is… can speak to it, but maybe there needs to be stronger legislation to say that if you do not wear a mask and you subject exposure of this virus to someone else then there will be some stronger penalty as it is in other viruses that are exposed.
Mike Jameson, director of legislative affairs and senior adviser to Nashville Mayor John Cooper (D), responded by informing Hurt that the city council does not have the legal authority to create criminal statutes.
“[T]he council does not have the opportunity on its own to create criminal legislation, that is a state creature. We’re warranted by state law, to apply criminal application to violations, just for example, as the state law allows us to apply a Class E misdemeanor to violate a health director violation,” Jameson explained. “But, in terms of creating a new code, or class of criminal offenses, that is a creature of state law.”
In response, Hurt said she “was afraid that was going to be the answer.”