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Juvenile Curfew Laws - The Basics

Juvenile curfew laws are local ordinances that prohibit people of a certain age (usually under 18) from being in public or in a business establishment during certain hours (such as between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.).

Juvenile curfew laws are almost always enacted at the local level, by city or county government. The legislative intent behind juvenile curfew laws is usually social order goals like prevention of crimes involving juveniles, and maintenance of the general peace.

Juvenile Curfew Laws and Exempted Activities

Almost all juvenile curfew laws identify exempted activities or exceptions under which juveniles may lawfully be out after curfew. These exceptions will vary by jurisdiction, but typically include:

  • Minors accompanied by a parent or guardian
  • Minors traveling to or from work
  • Minors attending official school or religious events
  • Minors running errands under an adult's instruction
  • Emergencies

Punishment for Juvenile Curfew Violations

Punishment for juvenile curfew law violations also varies among jurisdictions, but can often include one or more of the following options:

  • Fines (usually increasing for subsequent violations)
  • Imposition of community service or required enrollment in after-school programs
  • Restriction of driver's license privileges
  • Possible detention in jail or juvenile hall.

In some cities, parents who knowingly allow their children to violate curfew laws may also be subject to fines and other punishment.

Juvenile Curfews, Selective Enforcement, and Leniency

Often, a city curfew law will remain on the books but be enforced only periodically, typically as a law enforcement response to an increased incidence of local crime and violence. In other cities, curfew enforcement is ramped up during summer months when students are out of school.

A city's juvenile curfew law may include a provision giving local law enforcement the ability to choose more lenient and socially constructive curfew enforcement policies (compared to automatic citation or arrest of offending minors). These alternatives might include issuing a warning, recommending a counseling program, or simply taking the minor home.

Juvenile Curfew Laws - Ask Local Authorities

Since juvenile curfew laws vary by locality, and enforcement can depend on a number of factors, how can you learn more about juvenile curfew laws where you live? The first step is to contact your local police department or other law enforcement agency. If they don't have the answers to your juvenile curfew law questions, they should be able to point you in the right direction.

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