Adult Curfews & Strict Scrutiny
Curfews directed at adults touch upon fundamental constitutional rights and thus are subject to strict judicial scrutiny. The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that "[t]he right to walk the streets, or to meet publicly with one's friends for a noble purpose or for no purpose at all—and to do so whenever one pleases—is an integral component of life in a free and ordered society." Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156, 164, 31 L. Ed. 2d 110, 92 S. Ct 839 (1972).
To satisfy strict-scrutiny analysis, a government-imposed curfew on adults must be supported by a compelling state interest that is narrowly tailored to serve the curfew's objective. Court's are loath to find that an interest advanced by the government is compelling. The more justifications that courts find to uphold a curfew on adults, the more watered-down becomes the fundamental right to travel and to associate with others in public places at all times of the day.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this right may be legitimately curtailed when a community has been ravaged by flood, fire, or disease, or when its safety and WELFARE are otherwise threatened. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 85 S. Ct. 1271, 14 L. Ed. 2d 179 (1965). The California Court of Appeals cited this ruling in a case that reviewed an order issued by the city of Long Beach, California, which declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews on all adults (and minors) within the city's confines after widespread civil disorder broke out following the Rodney G. King beating trial, in which four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of using excessive force in subduing an African-American motorist following a high-speed traffic chase. In re Juan C., 28 Cal. App. 4th 1093, 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 919 (Cal. App. 1994).
"Rioting, looting and burning," the California court wrote, "pose a similar threat to the safety and welfare of a community, and provide a compelling reason to impose a curfew." "The right to travel is a hollow promise when members of the community face the possibility of being beaten or shot by an unruly mob if they attempt to exercise this right," the court continued, and "[t]emporary restrictions on the right… are a reasonable means of reclaiming order from ANARCHY so that all might exercise their constitutional rights freely and safely."
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