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Quarantine Law: Constitutional & Practical Considerations


Created on August 16, 2016



The 2014-2015 Ebola outbreak led to an increased focus on the quarantine policies and laws of the states and federal government in light of the large numbers of volunteer health care workers who traveled to West Africa to combat the epidemic and, upon their return, faced quarantines and other movement restrictions even when such restrictions were not scientifically justified. Individuals returning to the United States faced a patchwork of state laws and policies governing when and how quarantines might be imposed on them, leading to uncertainty over how such quarantines could be challenged. This program aims to provide an overview of states' quarantine laws, which could come into play in future public health crises. 

State laws and policies on public health quarantines vary in the procedural requirements they impose on a state, in the evidentiary showing that must be made to justify a quarantine, and in whether or not the state must guarantee adequate conditions during a quarantine, such as access to food. Additionally, any state quarantine law, policy, or practice must comport with constitutional due process requirements.

This course, presented by Esha Bhandari, Staff Attorney with the ACLU's Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, reviews the procedural and substantive laws governing state-imposed public health quarantines, identifying the most common types of legal requirements. The course also provides a constitutional framework for evaluating quarantine laws and policies, including the minimum standards that must be met before a state can quarantine an individual in the name of public health.


Learning Objectives:

I.      Identify typical state laws and policies governing public-health quarantines

II.     Gain a constitutional framework for evaluating state quarantine laws and policies

III.    Receive practical guidance on how to challenge an individual quarantine order

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