GUEST WRITERS | Popovici Nițu Stoica & Asociații | Alexandru Ambrozie, Partner & Ana Stoenescu, Associate: Here comes the unexpected: COVID-19 is not the only criminal, at least not in the eyes of criminal law

It is no news that every crisis leaves room for countless errors and mistakes. In the midst of fear and panic, it is way too easy for companies and individuals to cross the thin line between a rash decision and criminal offences. When it comes to COVID-19 related offences, prevention lies in being informed and in this regard we offer a helping hand.

Since the virus crossed our borders, the prosecutors did not work from home, but were busy opening no less than 41 criminal files in less than two weeks. At first sight, the main offences investigated are:

  • Preventing the fighting of diseases: failure to comply with the measures taken for the prevention and combating of infectious and contagious diseases, if this resulted in the spreading of such a disease.
  • Giving false information: the act of communicating or disseminating, in full knowledge, by any means, of false news, data or information or false documents, if such act is likely to jeopardize national security or the international relations of Romania.

While the first though may be that a criminal file investigating these offence is no threat to you and/or your company, things may change at a closer look.

These offences may be committed by individuals and companies alike, as we all, natural or legal persons, bear some obligations when it comes to preventing and combating COVID-19 and providing true and accurate information related to the virus during these times.

Also, preventing the fighting of diseases may be committed with basic intent, so there is no need for the perpetrator to aim at spreading the disease, only foreseeing such a result will ensue this offence.

Looking even further, the law establishes severe punishments that may reach 5 years of imprisonment for individuals and a fine up to EUR 250,000 for companies.

If these sanctions were not enough, the Association Movement for Protecting the Statute of Prosecutors is now requesting harsher sanctions – up to 15 years of imprisonment for individuals and a fine of up to approx. EUR 440,000 for companies.

Given the impact of these offences and the possible consequences to other persons’ life, integrity and health, we expect that the criminal files opened in connection to COVID-19 will also investigate bodily harm or even murder, together with the two offences already mentioned which would increase the sanctions greatly.

All things considered, while keeping our focus on preventing the risks to our health, we must acknowledge that this is no time to make ‘mistakes’ subject to criminal law and should comply with all legal obligations (please review our posts on competition, GDPR, employment law) and wear ‘protective gloves’ in every way.

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