AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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The highest court
in Massachusetts has struck down a local ordinance making it a crime for
minors under age 17 to violate a curfew. The court ruled that the criminal
penalties minors faced for violating the ordinance, including arrest and
possible commitment to state custody were too broad to be constitutionally
permissible, even if the city had intended to serve legitimate public safety
goals by promoting a youth curfew. "The criminal processes and punishments
provided in the ordinance contradict well-established goals of rehabilitating,
not incarcerating, juvenile offenders,'' the court stated, while leaving
untouched civil penalties in the ordinance for curfew violators. The curfew
requires minors to be home during the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., with
some stated exceptions for certain activities. The civil penalty is a $50
fine and the sending of a notice to a parent or guardian. Commonwealth
v. Weston W., #SJC-10299, 455 Mass. 24; 913 N.E.2d 832 (2009).
A California city's youth curfew was overly broad and improperly prohibited otherwise "innocent and legal" conduct by minors even when they had parental permission to engage in activities after curfew. A California intermediate appeals court therefore ruled that it violated the equal protection provisions of the U.S. and California constitutions. While the curfew ordinance included exemptions for official school, religious, and other recreational activities, it did not allow minors to travel to and from such activities after 10 p.m. unaccompanied by an adult, even with parental permission. Also, a stated protection in the ordinance for minors engaged in protected First Amendment activities was "hollow," the court found, since it did not allow minors to travel to or from such activities without an adult present. The court also took issue with the ordinance failing to have a "going to" or "coming from" exceptions to permit minors to go safely from one curfew exempt location to another. In re A. G.,#D053991, 2010 Cal. App. Lexis 132 (4th Dist.).
New York's highest court rules that a Rochester, N.Y. nighttime curfew for juveniles violates both the childrens' substantive due process rights to "freedom of movement," and parents' rights to direct the upbringing of their children. While the intended purpose of the ordinance of preventing victimization of minors was legitimate, the proof offered by the city of the connection between the goal and the curfew used to achieve it failed to show the needed connection. The incidents the city pointed to would not have been prevented by the curfew since two of the victims killed met their deaths during hours before the time of the curfew, and a third minor decedent was already subject to an individual curfew. Crime statistics presented also did not support the argument for the curfew, and there was no substantial relationship between the curfew and another stated goal of promotion of parental supervision. Anonymous v. Rochester, #81, 2009 N.Y. Lexis 2010.
Indiana's curfew statute violated minor's First Amendment rights, even with the inclusion of an affirmative defense for minors arrested while going to or from First Amendment protected activities, since subjecting them to the possibility of arrest may improperly "chill" such activities, federal appeals court rules. Hodgkins v. Peterson, No. 01-4115, 355 F.3d 1048 (7th Cir. 2004). [2004 LR Dec]
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