Idaho woman faces jail for holding yard sale in violation of coronavirus stay-at-home order

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A northern Idaho woman with six kids is facing six months in jail on a charge of holding a yard sale in violation of the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order.

The misdemeanor summons was issued to Christa Thompson, 33, of Rathdrum on Friday, according to Rathdrum police and local media reports.

“The Rathdrum Police Department attempted to educate and warn prior to issuing a citation,” Police Chief Tomi McLean said Friday in a Facebook post that has generated more than 1,400 comments.

Summons issued to Christa Thompson charging her with holding a yard sale in violation of Idaho's coronavirus stay at home order.

Summons issued to Christa Thompson charging her with holding a yard sale in violation of Idaho's coronavirus stay at home order. (Idaho Freedom Foundation)

“Rathdrum PD has also received several complaints from the public in regard to the yard sale,” she said. “This was a large non-essential yard sale that filled the entire front yard and spilled into the back yard as well. These yard sale items could be seen from Highway 41.”

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Under Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s stay-at-home coronavirus order, garage sales and yard sales are not an essential business and are prohibited. Violations of the order are misdemeanors punishable by a 6-month jail sentence or a $1,000 fine.

“Officers were on scene on April 9, 2020 when the owner asked if the yard sale was in violation of the Governor’s orders,” McLean said. “The officer educated the homeowner that the yard sale was in violation of the Governor’s stay-at-home-order, and they were admonished not to have the yard sale.”

Christa and Peter Thompson of Rathdrum, Idaho

Christa and Peter Thompson of Rathdrum, Idaho (Idaho Freedom Foundation)

The chief said the next day a second officer reported that the homeowner would remove the yard sale signs and that they were only "sorting items" in the yard and not having a yard sale.

“On April 13 a posting on Craig’s List stated that the homeowners were having a yard sale at their residence,” McLean said. “An officer approached the family and reminded them that they were in violation of the Governor’s order. He then issued them a written warning.”

She said on Friday officers returned to the home.

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“A large quantity of items were still out in the front yard and sales transactions were occurring while police were present,” McLean said.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reported interviewing Thompson’s husband about the violation.

He told the paper that when the Rathdrum police officers first showed up, he asked if it was OK to sell a few things to some people.

“They said, ‘Sure, as long as there’s no signs or advertising or anything like that. So, we didn’t,’” Peter Thompson said.

He told the paper the family was racking up bills from storage units filled with his late father’s belongings, and the family was selling some of those items to make ends meet.

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“And we’re trying to raise six kids, too,” he said, according to the paper.

Thompson told the Idaho Freedom Foundation that he and his wife plan to fight the violation.

He also told the libertarian group that reports about the violation have led to an uptick in traffic to his Rathdrum home.

As of Monday, Idaho has seen 1,672 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases. There have been 45 deaths in the state.