Police are supposed to focus on informing the public, not making arrests, in enforcing the governor’s stay-at-home order, according to guidelines issued by the state Attorney General’s office.
“The primary enforcement objectives should be to inform the public of the order, its importance to public health, and to seek voluntary compliance,” the guidelines read.
Gov. Chris Sununu’s March 26 emergency order closed businesses deemed non-essential and requires most New Hampshire residents to stay home from work and avoid most errands. The full order can be read online.
Several states have issued similar orders in recent weeks, including Rhode Island on Saturday.
Leaving home to get groceries, take-out food from restaurants and gas is still allowed in New Hampshire, as is visiting immediate family.
In guidelines issued Friday to police in New Hampshire, Attorney General Gordon MacDonald’s office told officers they should exercise discretion in deciding when to charge people with violating the order.
In general, according to the guidelines, police should just make sure people know they are supposed to stay in their homes and tell them why it is important to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
But police can charge people with disorderly conduct for repeatedly violating the order, the guidelines say.
The governor’s order allows people to go outside for fresh air and exercise. Fishing and clamming are still allowed, according to the state Fish and Game Department, though state beaches are closed.
The Fish and Game Department asks people to stay away from crowded trails and consider using parks closer to home.
“This is not the time for epic hikes or back country adventures. We encourage people to enjoy nature in their back yard or neighborhood and to stay a safe distance from others while doing so,” said Col. Kevin Jordan, the Fish and Game Department’s chief law enforcement officer.
“Fresh air and being in nature are important for our mental health, and people are encouraged to recreate safely, responsibly, and close to home.”