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Will Mask-Wearing Directive Lead to Mistaken Identifications?

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

We are now two months into the coronavirus pandemic, and Governor Inslee has initiated a phased re-opening for Washington businesses and stores that will both get the economy going and keep Washingtonians healthy and safe. Life certainly looks much different than it did over two months ago. Some businesses have shuttered their doors forever, most people are practicing social distancing when they are in a grocery store or pharmacy, and a great number of people are wearing masks when they have to be out in public.

Starting Monday, May 18, 2020, all residents of Seattle and King County will be asked to wear facial masks when they are out and about. Face masks will be required when people are both inside a business as well as outside in an area where social distancing is difficult to maintain, like a farmer's market or on public transit. The county's Public Health Officer said wearing a mask will be required, but there will be no legal ramifications if someone doesn't comply.

Masked Crimes Happening

When people in and around Seattle began wearing masks—either homemade cloth masks or the hospital-grade N95 masks—as the pandemic spread, the King County Sheriff's Office began noticing an uptick in masked robberies in the area. A recent alleged robbery of a bank was committed by someone wearing a medical mask. With so many people now wearing masks, would-be criminals might think they have a better chance of blending in, but Sheriff Ryan Abbott says there's a distinction:

“A lot of times people will be really nervous if they're going to commit a crime, if you see someone looking around in a lot of different areas … Maybe it's them coming in and not doing anything, looking around for a bit and then leaving, coming back again a second or third time.”

Mistaken Identification

A properly-worn mask covers almost two-thirds of a face, leaving only the eyes visible. And if someone is wearing a hat or scarf on their head (maybe to hide two months' worth of not getting a haircut or color job) along with a mask, it can make identifying one person from the next almost impossible. While wearing a mask helps protect others from your germs, just as their mask protects you from their germs, they hide features that distinguish us from one another.

Say you are in a bank or business that is held up by a masked robber, and you had the misfortune of wearing the same colored jacket or shirt as the robber. In the aftermath of the robbery, as police are interviewing all the witnesses and bystanders, someone might point you out as being the suspect because all they remember of the perpetrator was that they were wearing a mask and a light blue shirt—just as you are.

Proven Seattle Criminal Defense

At Karimi Law Office, we understand that these are unprecedented times. We are all trying to adapt to a new world and new way of doing things, and yet, life is still going on and crimes are being committed. If you were in the wrong place at the wrong time and have now been accused of committing a robbery or burglary because of mistaken identification, you need a criminal defense attorney who will fight for your rights. Steve Karimi is a former King County prosecutor who uses his talents and experience to defend clients. For a free and confidential consultation of your case, call 206-621-8777 or fill out an online contact form

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.