Juvenile curfew laws restrict the presence of minors in certain locations during certain hours. Curfew laws can restrict minors from certain public areas, such as mall, or from public areas in general, such as city streets. Curfew laws are typically created by local or state governments as a means of combating juvenile crime.
Juvenile curfew laws should describe the age group who are restricted, the specific hours of restriction, the locations the age group cannot be in, and any exceptions or exemptions that may apply. For example, a juvenile curfew law may state “a person under the age of 16 cannot be in a public place within the City of San Jose without adult supervision between the hours of 10:00pm and 5:00am.”
What If a Juvenile Violates a Curfew Law?
Parents are often liable for their minor child’s violation of curfew laws. Penalties often involve fines of about $400-$600, community service, driver’s license restrictions, and/or jail time.
Are There Any Defenses?
Juvenile curfew laws often come with a list of exemptions so that the laws are in line with the Constitution. Common exceptions include:
- Being accompanied by an adult.
- Engaging in gainful employment.
- Being engaged in a school, religious, or civil organization related activity.
- Seeking emergency or medical assistance.
- Exercising First Amendment Rights.
- Emancipation from parental control.
Although curfew laws are often used to protect minor children and other citizens, those same laws cannot unduly burden constitutional rights such as free speech or free exercise of religion.
Curfew laws can also be challenged if they are arbitrarily enforced. If police officers use curfew laws to target minors of color, there may be an equal protection challenge to the curfew law.
Seeking Legal Help
If you and/or your child are accused of breaching a juvenile curfew law, you should contact a criminal defense attorney to learn more about your rights and any possible defenses that are available to your situation.