Is it legal, constitutional for Cape Charles to prohibit people from coming here? We are not alone, places such as New Jersey and the Outer Banks (Dare County) have restricted access. However, Legal experts assert the right to travel is a fundamental liberty in the United States.
Beach towns and whole states are instituting restrictions on travel in an effort to protect their communities from COVID-19, noting that they do not want medical facilities overwhelmed.
Now a lawsuit between property owners and Dare County North Carolina county could set a new precedent for how communities prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On March 20, Dare County introduced a new restriction stopping non-residents from entering the county.
To enter Dare County after 10 p.m. on March 20, drivers had to present identification at checkpoints showing they were permanent residents of the county.
According to attorneys representing the out-of-state property owners the restriction is unconstitutional.
“We are alleging it’s a violation of what’s called the Privileges and Immunity’s Clause and what it does is say a citizen of each state has the same rights as the citizens of what’s called the several states, or in other words all other states,” attorney Chuck Kitchen said.
This is tricky. While the right to travel among jurisdictions has been considered a “core constitutional right” in the past by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Court has also recognized that governments have certain powers in times of emergency.
The Dare County restrictions may also be violating a constitutional right that says states can’t discriminate against citizens of another state.
Dare County is allegedly discriminating against residents of South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland.
The plaintiffs own multiple properties in Dare County. Three own second homes and three others use their properties as rentals.
In Chincoteague Mayor J. Arthur Leonard closed hotels, campgrounds, rental properties, and other attractions to try to stop people from visiting.
Chincoteague police are stopping all cars that come onto the island. No one is being turned away but people not from Northampton or Accomack counties are given a flier warning that all services on the island are shut down.
Right now Chincoteague has a checkpoint set up to access the island and identification isn’t required.