Local ordinances and state statutes may make it unlawful for minors below a certain age to be on public streets, unless they are accompanied by a parent or an adult or on lawful and necessary business on behalf of their parents or guardians. For example, a Michigan state law provides that "[n]o minor under the age of 12 years shall loiter, idle or congregate in or on any public street, highway, alley or park between the hours of 10 o'clock P.M. and 6 o'clock A.M., unless the minor is accompanied by a parent or guardian, or some adult delegated by the parent or guardian to accompany the child." MCLA § 722.751; MSA § 28.342(1). Curfew laws in other states and cities typically set forth different curfews for minors of different ages.
Curfew laws and ordinances have been sustained as necessary to control the presence of juveniles in public places at nighttime with the attendant risk of mischief. In re Osman, 109 Ohio App. 3d 731, 672 N.E.2d 1114 (1996). Courts have found that curfew ordinances promote the safety and good order of the community by reducing the incidence of juvenile criminal activity. Schleifer v. City of Charlottesville, 159 F.3d 843 (4th Cir. 1998).
Curfew laws have generally been upheld against constitutional challenges on FIRST AMENDMENT and DUE PROCESS grounds. Hodgkins ex rel. Hodgkins v. Peterson, 175 F. Supp. 2d 1132 (S.D. Ind. 2001). One federal court held that minors have no fundamental right to freedom of movement or travel that protects them from restrictions imposed by curfew laws. Hutchins v. District of Columbia, 188 F.3d 531,(D.C. Cir. 1999). However, a juvenile curfew ordinance that exempted minors who had graduated from high school was found to violate the EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT to the U.S. Constitution. In re Mosier, 59 Ohio Misc. 83, 394 N.E.2d 368, 13 O.O.3d 290 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1978).
In some instances, courts will find particular language in a juvenile curfew law to be impermissibly vague under the "void for vagueness" doctrine (a FIFTH AMENDMENT doctrine that requires all laws to be sufficiently clear that persons of average intelligence will understand in advance which conduct is prohibited). If possible, courts will simply delete offending language from the law so that what remains passes constitutional muster. For example, one curfew law allowed the city's mayor to issue permits for minors to use public streets during prohibited times if the mayor found that such use was "consistent with the public interest." A California state court held that that language failed to provide any standards by which the mayor could lawfully exercise the discretion to grant permits. The court deleted the language but said the mayor could still grant permits when to do so would be consistent with the purposes of ordinance as expressly set forth therein. Bykofsky v. Borough of Middletown, 401 F. Supp. 1242 (M.D. Pa. 1975).
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