Hoarding and Price Gouging Now a Crime as Trump Invokes DPA

 Posted on April 16, 2020 in Federal Crimes

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerThe coronavirus has touched everyone in the country in some way, even those that have never tested positive or become exposed to the virus. Now, President Trump has signed an executive order making price gouging illegal. Under the Defense Production Act, which was enacted in 1950 and invoked by Trump recently to force manufacturers such as GM to create personal protective equipment, the President has also made it illegal to hoard that same equipment.

Hoarding and Price Gouging

Hoarding is a federal crime and by invoking the Defense Production Act, federal agents now have the ability to find those that are hoarding certain materials and prosecute them for doing so. Hoarding itself is defined as accumulating scarce materials beyond what is considered reasonable for business, personal, or home consumption. Like any other section of code that defines something as ‘reasonable,’ what is and is not reasonable is likely to be determined on a case by case basis.

The same section of code that touches on hoarding also refers to price gouging. Under 50 U.S. Code, Section 4512, no person shall sell products in excess of prevailing market prices if the President has deemed those products as being scarce materials. However, states also have their own price gouging laws. For example, in Illinois, it is only against the law to sell petroleum-based products for an unconscionably high price.

It is important that for both hoarding and price gouging, the President must have declared the product as being scarce. For now, that means personal protection equipment such as hospital gowns and surgical masks. Individuals that have started stockpiling other items, such as toilet paper which has been seen throughout the country, do not have to worry.

Penalties for Hoarding and Price Gouging

Although no one has yet been charged with hoarding or price gouging due to the coronavirus, the Department of Justice has been clear that when people are found to be engaging in these activities, they will face criminal penalties. What those penalties are exactly is still unclear but will likely include fines and jail time in federal prison.

Like any other federal crime, individuals will also carry a permanent criminal record, which can prevent them from securing employment, academic opportunities, and housing. Federal prosecutors throughout the country have stated that even though no one has yet been charged with an offense, they are committed to pursuing charges against anyone that stockpiles scarce goods.

Our Chicago Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer Is Here to Help

No one wants personal protection equipment taken away from healthcare professionals, but it is up to the government to determine what is reasonable, and those standards are sometimes quite strict. If you are facing charges, call our skilled Chicago federal criminal defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel. Attorney Garfinkel knows how to build a strong defense and will give you the best chance of a successful outcome. Call us today at 312-629-0669 to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your case.


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