State AG declares city mask ordinances legal

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GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA)–Some cities in the Palmetto State have opted to start requiring people wear face coverings out in public or when headed to specific stores. However, some people are questioning the legality to do so.

Some cities now require people to cover their mouths and noses to keep from spreading the coronavirus. Some support that wearing a mask keeps yourself and others safe.

“I take it very seriously, I don’t know what everybody else is doing but I’m going to make sure I’m safe,” Terrence Murphy of Taylors said.

But others feel that it violates your rights.

“It makes me feel like I’m living under a dictatorship,” Richard Bullard of Greenville said.

State Attorney General Alan Wilson said cities are in a position to act right now and all the requirements are done by the book.

“In this case, state law allows cities during a public health emergency to implement these types of ordinances,” Wilson said.

He said it falls under something called Home Rule, which allows cities to act quickly in the case of an emergency.

“The same authority that we’re all accustomed to where we abide by a curfew or a quarantine or an evacuation is the same authority that is being utilized here,” Wilson said.

However, there are limits to this power.

“Cities can pass these ordinance, except when they are prohibited or preempted by state or federal law,” Wilson said.

In the City of Greenville, you are now required to wear a face covering at the pharmacy and grocery stores. Some people disagree with the decision.

“If you’re a corporate store, everybody should be allowed whether they have a mask or without a mask,” Bullard said.

So what happens if you don’t comply? Wilson said what cities don’t have the authority to do is create new crimes, but they can do something else.

“They can create a civil infraction and pay a fee. It would be like if you were to park your car and feed the meter, and the meter runs out and you get a ticket for being there too long,” Wilson said.

And even though Greenville isn’t requiring masks in all public places, some are still taking their health into their own hands.

“Hopefully they’ll find a cure soon, but until they do, people should do as much as they can to stay safe,” Murphy said.

The Attorney General said if someone does believe their constitutional rights have been violated, they’ll have to take that on a case-by-case basis.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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