Police Issue Citation For Yard Sale After Repeated Warnings To Woman Not To Violate Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order

An Idaho mother of six faces a $1,000 fine and six months in jail after she and her husband allegedly defied a stay-at-home order by holding a multiday yard sale.

Rathdrum Police Chief Tomi McLean said police officers stopped by the home several times to educate the couple about nonessential gatherings that violate the stay-at-home order, which the governor issued to limit the state's coronavirus outbreak.

Police officers first went to the home of Christa and Peter Thompson on April 9 after neighbors complained about yard sale items that were on the home's front yard and stretched into the backyard. McLean said the officers told Peter Thompson that having an advertised yard sale violated the stay-at-home order, and the couple were warned to stop or they could be fined, according to Fox News.

Yard Sale Items
A stock photo of items in storage. An Idaho couple brought home in-storage items to sell at a yard sale but now face legal trouble for allegedly violating the state's stay-at-home order. Getty

The Thompsons had been paying $1,000 a month for a storage unit that contained items that belonged to Peter Thompson's late father. Unable to continue paying for the storage, the couple brought the items to their home to sort through and try to sell.

Peter Thompson said he asked the officer if they were allowed to sort through the items and sell a few to people as long as the yard sale was not advertised, according to the Coeur d'Alene/Post Falls Press website. The Thompsons were asked to remove the yard sale signs, and the police officer gave them a copy of the stay-at-home order before leaving the home

On March 25, Idaho Governor Brad Little issued the stay-at-home order, which was recently extended through the end of April. It bans all nonessential gatherings and orders all nonessential businesses closed. Yard sales, according to McLean, are considered a nonessential gathering. Idaho is one of several states where residents have publicly protested stay-at-home orders.

The next day, an officer went back to the home after again receiving complaints from the neighbors and found the items were still in the yard. The Thompsons again claimed they were sorting through items and not holding a yard sale, and they said they would remove the sign, according to McLean.

Four days later, Rathdrum police learned that the Thompsons were advertising a yard sale on Craigslist, according to the Elko Daily Free Press. McLean said that an officer was sent to the home and that Peter Thompson was issued a written warning.

"This was a large nonessential yard sale that filled the entire front yard and into the backyard as well. Yard sale items could be seen from Highway 41," McLean said.

After apparently watching as the yard sale was taking place, a police officer stopped by the home and issued Christa Thompson a citation for violating the stay-at-home order.

The violation of the stay-at-home order is a misdemeanor under Idaho state law, according to the Elko Daily Free Press, and Christa Thompson faces a $1,000 fine and six months in jail if convicted.

The Thompsons have sought the advice of Boise attorney Edward Dindinger, who said the police department was wrong. "The fact that officers of this department took the time to seek out and arbitrarily cite this individual indicates to me the Rathdrum Police Department has far too much time on its hands and is perhaps itself nonessential,'" he told the Idaho Freedom Foundation.

Christa Thompson is scheduled to appear at the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene on May 8.