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Juvenile Curfew Laws: The Basics

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

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.). The legislative intent behind juvenile curfew laws is usually social order goals such as prevention of crimes involving juveniles, protection of minors from predators, and maintenance of the general peace.

Juvenile Curfew Laws and Exempted Activities

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

  • 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; and
  • Emergencies.

Punishments for Juvenile Curfew Violations

Violations of juvenile curfews are punished differently among various jurisdictions, but can often include one or more of the following penalties:

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

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

Juvenile Curfew Laws, Selective Enforcement, and Leniency

Often, a city curfew law will remain on the books but will only be enforced periodically, typically as a police 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 curfew law can also 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.

This selective enforcement and discretion in dealing with violations of juvenile curfew laws can help when addressing specific situations, but they have also been the basis for challenging certain juvenile curfew laws in the court system.

Juvenile Curfew Laws: Ask Local Authorities

Since juvenile curfew laws vary by locality, and enforcement can depend on a number of factors, You can learn more about juvenile curfew laws where you live by contacting 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.

Get Legal Help with Your Questions About Juvenile Curfew Laws

As you can see, there are usually several exemptions to juvenile curfew laws as well as issues relating to selective enforcement and discretionary punishments. Contacting a local criminal defense attorney will help you understand your case as well as ways to resolve your case informally through negotiations or by presenting the strongest defense at trial. Get in touch with one today.

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