York County DA won’t pursue charges against mask mandate violators

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday announced that his office won’t prosecute anyone who violates Gov. Tom Wolf’s new statewide mask mandate for schools.

On Friday, the county’s top law enforcement official released a memo stating his office instructed police departments not to file criminal charges against anyone who violates the mask order. Sunday said his office wouldn’t prosecute any charges relating to alleged mask violations.

The memo marks a rebuke of Wolf’s mandate, as some Republican lawmakers work to challenge what they called an unconstitutional action. Prior to Wolf’s announcement, four local school districts had some form of a mask mandate already in place.

York County District Attorney Dave Sunday discusses the, "Report of the York County Investigating Grand Jury into the April 9, 2018 death of Everett Palmer Jr.," at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The state’s health department issued the order Aug. 31 requiring students aged two and up, teachers and all others inside school buildings to wear masks. 

Sunday pointed to previous decisions by his office in 2020 to not prosecute violations similar state COVID-19 orders. 

“Citizens cannot be subjected at risk of criminal penalty to restrictions whose terms continuously change,” Sunday wrote about his office’s decision in May 2020 not to pursue criminal charges for violating state health orders. “Rapid changes in the definition of what constitutes criminal conduct renders the application of criminal law as arbitrary and impossible to follow or defend against.”