Skip to main content

Are you a legal professional? Visit our professional site

Search for legal issues
For help near (city, ZIP code or county)
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location

Curfew Laws

Curfew laws prohibit or limit your right to be out in public at certain times. They are intended to maintain a certain level of order and safety in public spaces. 

Most curfew laws apply only to juveniles under the age of 18. In contrast, other curfew laws are enacted temporarily in response to a natural disaster or civil disturbance (and apply to all people in a city or local area). This is often when martial law is invoked. 

This subsection includes articles on common juvenile curfew laws, legal challenges to curfew violation charges, a list of curfew laws in the 25 most populous U.S. cities, and more.

Business and Emergency Curfew Laws

In some cities, business curfew laws restrict the operating hours of certain public establishments, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and liquor stores. 

Typically, business curfews do not apply to late-night pharmacies and bars but apply to restaurants, liquor stores, and other establishments where people may gather.

Emergency curfews are usually temporary orders. These are put in place by federal, state, or local government in response to a particular crisis, like a natural disaster or ongoing civil disturbance. Emergency curfew laws can be placed on minors and adults alike.

Juvenile Curfew Law Exceptions

Many curfew ordinances require juveniles to be home by a specific time. The curfew applies to:

  • Any public space, such as streets, parks, highways, and schools.
  • Public establishments, such as movie theaters, restaurants, and bowling alleys. 

Teens accompanied by a parent or guardian may be out after these deadlines.  Additional exceptions include if the minor is:

  • With a parent, guardian, or another responsible adult.
  • At work or in the process of going to or coming from home or work
  • Involved in an emergency
  • Going to, attending, or coming home from a supervised school, church, or recreational activity or in front of his/her own residence.

Legal Challenges to Juvenile Curfew Laws

Curfew ordinances have been around for well over a century. Curfews were first used to curb the actions of young people in Omaha in 1880. 

They have been in effect for decades in many municipalities, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and San Francisco.

Despite their popularity with local governments, existing studies show little evidence to support the notion that curfews are effective at reducing crime. Challenges have been mounted to some curfew laws on the basis that they violate juveniles' First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

Watching your child get in trouble with the law can be extremely nerve-wracking and heartbreaking. Obtaining a criminal defense lawyer can offer your child the chance to prove his or her innocence. Similarly, when adults face arrest for violating a curfew law, attorneys can work to help protect their records.

Your attorney can try to:

  • Convince a probation officer not to request a petition to be filed
  • Request release
  • Convince the District Attorney not to file charges in the first place
  • Request that probation is informally supervised without filing a petition
  • Convince the District Attorney to file a lesser charge
  • Suggest a rehabilitation program as probation for your child
  • Fight to have you or your child acquitted of any charges

Learn About Curfew Laws

Find a Lawyer

More Options