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Legislation, Quarantine/Isolation

NOTE: this is a very complex area of law, especially as it relates to stay-at-home orders issued by the states.  Please read our primer on quarantine/isolation law before reading this specific state law.

 

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Pursuant to Ala. Code §§ 22-12-1 through 22-12-30, quarantine can be authorized over specific areas.  Quarantine is also authorized in a state of emergency, pursuant to the Alabama Homeland Security Act of 2003.  Ala. Code § 31-9A-9.  The statutes regarding quarantine in these scenarios do not specify a procedure to challenge such an order.  If administrative procedures are available, parties in contested hearings can be represented by counsel at their own expense.  Ala. Code § 41-22-12(e).  There is no mention of appointment of counsel for these broad quarantine orders. 


The State Health Officer or county health officer has authority to isolate or quarantine "...any person or persons afflicted with any of the notifiable diseases or health conditions designated by the State Board of Health...", in accordance with §§ 22-11A-1 through 22-11A-42.  Ala. Code § 22-11A-3.  Notifiable diseases are "...diseases and health conditions of epidemic potential, a threat to the health and welfare of the public, or otherwise of public health importance."  Ala. Code § 22-11A-1.  "Isolation" refers to the “...restriction of free movement of a person or persons to prevent the spread of a notifiable disease, or other diseases as determined by the State Board of Health, by ordering confinement to a particular building or part thereof or the restriction of said individual to a facility specifically designated for the confinement of persons who may be infectious and possibly capable of transmitting a notifiable disease.”  Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-4-1-.02(7).  "Quarantine" is the “...forced isolation or restriction of free movement of a person or persons to prevent the spread of a notifiable disease or health condition.  Quarantine may refer to the restriction of access to or egress from any building, place, property or appurtenance.”  Ala. Admin. Code r. 420-4-1-.02(10).  A court order is not required to quarantine or isolate an individual with a notifiable disease.  Rather, any person with a notifiable disease “shall conform to or obey the instructions or directions given or communicated to him by the county board of health, county health officer or his designee, or State Board of Health, State Health Officer, or his designee, to prevent the spread of the disease.”  Ala. Code § 22-11A-7.  However, for "...any person exposed to a disease or where reasonable evidence indicates exposure to a disease or infection designated under this article refuses testing or when any person afflicted with a disease designated under this article refuses treatment and/or conducts himself so as to expose others to infection," either the State or the local health officer can file a petition to commit the person to "...the custody of the Alabama Department of Public Health for compulsory testing, treatment and quarantine."  Ala. Code § 22-11A-24. 


A petition may be filed to commit a person to the custody of the Alabama Department of Public Health on the ground that the person is a danger to the public health.  Ala. Code § 22-11A-27.  A petition for commitment may also be filed against a person with a sexually transmitted disease.  Ala. Code § 22-11A-18(a). 


At the time when any petition has been filed seeking to commit any person to the custody of Alabama Department of Public Health, the probate judge "...shall appoint a guardian ad litem to represent and protect the rights of such person and shall determine if the person has the funds and capacity to secure the services of an attorney to represent him. If the person does not have the funds or capacity to secure the services of an attorney, the probate judge shall appoint an attorney, who may be the same person as the guardian ad litem, to represent him.”  Ala. Code § 22-11A-29.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes