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Should Teens Under 18 Be Subject to Curfew Laws

Stacie L has been an educator for many years and likes to share her experiences and advice.

In most states, there are curfew laws meant to prevent minors from being out at certain times of day/night.

In most states, there are curfew laws meant to prevent minors from being out at certain times of day/night.

Should There Be Curfews for Minors?

Should law enforcement make juveniles accountable or the parents? Anyone under the age of 18 years is considered to be a minor in most states.

If you ask 10 people how they feel about curfews for minors, you’ll probably get 10 different opinions. It isn’t an easy topic to find agreement on. Major towns and cities have had curfew laws governing teens but there are groups that will fight those laws, claiming that they are unconstitutional.

In the earliest years, curfews were aimed almost exclusively at keeping young criminals off the street. Today, new curfew legislation often tries to solve more complex social ills, such as the inability of parents to control their children and the alarming number of innocent children who are the unintended victims of drive-by shootings and other adult violence “according to Tony Favro, writer at

A group called Citizens Against the Dallas Daytime Curfew, co-hosted two rallies with the ACLU to speak out against a proposed ordinance for teen curfews. One rally took place at Dallas City Hall and the other one ran concurrently at Bedford City Hall, where the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district already has a daytime curfew in place.

According to this group, the curfew laws are not needed because the police already pick up youth and bring them to school. They also fine the parents $500.00 for each offense, thus causing a major hardship financially on the family. Business owners may also face a $500.00 fine if they allow youth between the hours of 9:00 am and 2:30 pm in their store. Also contested is the fact that the daytime burglaries are committed by adults, not children, so there's no justification for the claims of increased crime. They maintain a Facebook profile and encourage people to sign up.

The American Civil Liberties Union ACLU

The ACLU usually gets involved in landmark cases and members like to think of themselves as fighters for the underdog.

They successfully fought Washington, D.C.'s curfew law in favor of teens not having a curfew. The city is appealing that ruling at this writing. They are also facing a court challenge in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Minneapolis and Roswell, N.M., have daytime curfews to keep students in school. Parents in Charleston, S.C., sign forms authorizing the police to bring their children home if found between midnight and 6 am.

Some businesses, including malls, across the country are setting their own curfews to cut down on fights and large gatherings that interfere with other customers. According to a Teenage Research Unlimited, malls are restricting teens to 9pm curfew or they must be accompanied by an adult under the age of 15.

Teenage Research Unlimited states that 68% of 12- to 19-year-olds spend 3 hours at the mall each week. There are not many places for teens to hang out and socialize. Large groups do pose a problem and parents aren’t there to supervise their curfews.

Parental Rights

There are those that feel only the parents can set the curfew for their children. The legislators have taken that responsibility from the parents because they believe they are not supervising their teens. Since the crime rate for minors decreased when curfews are in place, it's hard to argue against repealing it.

Teen drivers need curfews to prevent problems.

Teen drivers need curfews to prevent problems.

Curfews for Teens Driving at Night

Most of the 50 states have enacted new curfews for teens night driving. In general, anyone under 18 years old may not drive between the hours of 12 midnight until 5 am. There are some exceptions; such as Illinois restricting teens from driving between the hours of 10pm to 6am, for example.

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The reason is simple. The earlier teens are off the roads, the more lives are saved. Teens have the highest number of fatalities out of every group. Not only teens behind the wheel, but their passengers and other drivers are being saved by these new driving curfews.

Some parents are seeing this as a major headache. They got their child to this point of responsibility and now they have a new worry keeping them up at night... If their son or daughter isn't in by 12 midnight, then they may face large fines or worse. Some legislators have named this the “Cinderella law and for good reason.

Now if we could stop them from texting and driving, that would be a major accomplishment!

The Latest on Teen Curfews

In recent years, the popularity of curfews as a means of combating teen crime has mushroomed. There are more than 700 cities have enacted teen curfews, including 146 of the nation's largest 200.

Barely one-third of city officials surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors called curfew laws not "very effective." The reason given mostly was due to a lack of resources to enforce them. It sounds like money, not sound reasoning, was the deciding factor.

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 pm. and 6:00 am.). The legislative intent behind juvenile curfew laws is usually social order goals like prevention of crimes involving juveniles, and maintenance of the general peace.

Teens need time with friends, but within time curfews.

Teens need time with friends, but within time curfews.

Juvenile Curfew Laws and Exempted Activities

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

  • 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
  • Emergencies

Punishment for Juvenile Curfew Violations

Punishment for juvenile curfew law violations also varies among jurisdictions, but can often include one or more of the following options:

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

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

The groups opposed to curtailing youth freedom contend that law enforcement is violating their 14th amendment rights.

The 14th amendment reads, "All persons born or naturalized in the U.S. and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens in the United States. Nor shall any state deprive a person of life liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws. "

Law enforcement personnel, in most states, say the need for curfews largely depends on the area and its crime rate. Students working, going to sports or entertainment events, or attending night classes at the local college are needlessly fined and sometimes arrested. Parents have to take time off from work and spend money on lawyers and fines, which is clogging the court systems. Repeat offenders could land parents in jail.

Teen Pregnancy Blamed on Lax Curfews

There are some in the health care industry and school districts that are seeing more pregnant girls than ever before. The teen pregnancy rate is also alarming since the US has the highest rates in the world. Coming in earlier may help, but it's far more complex an issue than an earlier curfew can help.

The Laws Have Reason Behind Them

There have been time restrictions for minors on the books for many years. These laws were originally enacted to protect children and the public from youth crime.

Due to very permissive parents or absent parents, children are on their own for much of the time. I see youngsters on the streets on weekdays which means they are not attending public or private school. If you ask one of them why they are not in school because they are taught at home or “home schooled.”

It seems that some parents and public school districts are looking the other way, in the case of home schooled children. I tend to think that this trend will continue since the home schooled students, in general, score higher on standardized tests.

But on the other hand, there are many families that move frequently and their children are kept out of school, telling neighbors that they are home schooled. In reality, they are not receiving any education.

The idea of daylight curfew seems appropriate to me and is in the best interest of children and the general public at large. Many parents think it's acceptable to have children out unsupervised during school hours. I think we as a society need to set an example for children and young adults. The parents are responsible for their whereabouts and the teens are accountable for their actions.

Originally the nighttime curfew was intended to do the same; protect the students from possible child neglect and the public from juvenile delinquency. Teens dying behind the wheel is another major concern for new curfews. More lives have been saved since enacting these laws.

Another disturbing by-product of unsupervised students is the teen pregnancy rate. It appears that the US teens excel in that area, since we have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world.

*Update: Since writing the original article, it is now reported that US teen pregnancy rates are dropping. This is one piece of good news, which is not due to the curfew laws.

There may be a delicate balance between infringing on the 14th amendment rights of an individual and child neglect.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Stacie L


Stacie L (author) on December 01, 2014:

Hello erinshelby: I don't know if every state has laws on the books pertaining to parents liability for their kids actions. I do know some do.

It's becoming a more difficult role for parents and the local government to curb teens and minors behavior.

Not all kids are bad and not all are good. There are always exceptions.Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


erinshelby from United States on November 30, 2014:

Interesting information you've presented... do you know if there's parental liability for when kids do illegal things? I agree with NYMiskovic that not all parents enforce rules to keep their kids out of trouble.

In my state, parents/guardians can be punished for providing alcohol to those underage.

Credence2 from Florida (Space Coast) on February 25, 2013:

Stacie, while I strongly oppose the idea of creating second class citizenship among adults between the ages of 18-21, as most of us accept 18 as the age of majority, I have no problem with curfew laws.

People under 18 cannot be held legally responsible for their actions, adverse or otherwise. Because of this, their rights and privileges are to be restricted That is what it means to be a ‘minor’. It is the parent’s responsibility to properly supervise their children and as the responsible party should be subject to fines when their children are in violation.

Stacie L (author) on April 18, 2012:

Hello onlygonnbeme: Believe it or not,I was young once and do remember having the same feelings you have now.

Although it feels very unfair,the law is actually there to protect kids that may be neglected,abused or runaways.

Imagine a girl who is being forced into prostitution. Wouldn't you want the police to ask questions?

Or children left unsupervised. And yes, we all know kids can do anything bad before a curfew as well as after that curfew. You'll be an adult soon and will understand why it's necessary

Thank you for your mature comments.

onlygonnabeme on April 17, 2012:

Honestly.. I think it should be different. I know I'm only 16, but once I learned about it by getting in trouble for it by a cop (I didn't know anything about it) I started researching, but I started thinking, I wasn't doing anything else that was illegal, I wasn't causing trouble, etc. I think it should be that if someone's doing something like causing trouble, etc. then they should be the ones that aren't allowed out at that time. Because some of us teenagers actually go through things like abuse, rape, etc. from our parent(s), and just because we're too scared to say anything while it's going on doesn't mean that we should be put where it happening. Honestly, it's helpful, yes, but at the same time the innocent people should be able to get out once in a while, and those people who are making teenagers have a bad reputation should defiantly be recognizable or something, maybe have everyone at age.. 14 have a card (like an id) that they have to carry around so they won't be punished by law by just being out but the ones that do something should have their card taken away until like, a year later (because people do change) and if they do something again they get it taken away until the court decides to give it back.

Stacie L (author) on February 21, 2012:

angelteen: yes curfews are for your protection and everyone has to have limits, not just teens.

Thanks for leaving your comments.

AngelTeen on February 21, 2012:

I don't like having a curfew, but I obey it. My mom and I have a mutual agreement that once it starts to go dark out, I'm to get home. I don't mind doing that, but it still feels like she doesn't trust me. But I know she's just watching out for me.

Stacie L (author) on December 31, 2011:

TMacEwan: thank you for your thoughtful input. Since you have been debating this issue for a few years,you have to agree on one point;most juveniles are immature and need protection. That's mainly what the laws were intended to do. Also teen pregnancy rates MAY be reduced if the laws were enforced better-who knows?:-)

TMacEwan on December 30, 2011:

I've debated this issue sense middle school. But, I think you did a good job on your article. Do I agree on curfew laws? Not really. They haven't shown any real progress at any rate.

Curfews actually do the opposite in terms of stopping juvenile crime. You know its amazing that curfew violations out number any juvenile crime.

I'm 18, so most curfew laws don't apply to me. However I've been stopped by police. Sense I look younger than my age. In terms of how Constitutional it is? Most major court cases have deemed it unconstitutional or to vague.

Once again good job on this article.

Trevor James MacEwan

Stacie L (author) on December 02, 2011:

thank you for reading and commenting Ryan:

the original intent for curfew laws for minors was for their protection; not to single them out or punish them.

i agree that Lack of money is not a good excuse to say that curfews laws are not effective.

Ryan on December 02, 2011:

In my opinion enforcing this law so strictly is a waste of resources. How do you single out drivers that you "assume" to be Teens behind the wheel? Why not focus these precious resources of time and money elsewhere, namely; Dangerous Drivers, Drunk Drivers, Suspicious Activity, etc. Instead of attempting to target an age group that is prosecuted due to a general stereotype?

"Barely one-third of city officials surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors called curfew laws

not "very effective."; the reason given mostly was due to lack of resources to enforce them. It sounds like money, not sound reasoning ,was the deciding factor."

This statement is one of the most uneducated I've personally ever read. How do you not consider Money, sound reasoning?

Stacie L (author) on October 27, 2011:

The curfews laws were written to protect minors. it may seem that they and the police are targeting you unfairly but they are doing their job.

ANewConservative from Chicago on October 26, 2011:

Yes, I'm 17 living in IL, so on Fridays and Saturdays I'm supposed to be off public property by 11pm (10 on weekdays). And I have friends who have been stopped and ticketed mere minutes after curfew, sometimes while heading home.

Stacie L (author) on October 26, 2011:

thank you for reading and commenting. if you have to go home by 11 does that mean you are under 18 years old?

ANewConservative from Chicago on October 26, 2011:

Curfew laws are plain and simply unconstitutional. Every time I have to go home at 11, I thank God we don't live in N. Korea, where a state-wide curfew is enforced by cutting off all electricity at 9pm, but at the current rate, it wouldn't surprise me if we started do that in about 30 years.

I'm definitely going to write a hub about this now.

Stacie L (author) on August 28, 2011:

beth: the curfew laws were meant to protect minors not punish them.

You sound responsible but there are many in your peer group that are not.

thanks for reading.

beth on August 27, 2011:

I'm 16. The vast majority of crime is committed by people over the age of 18 so why don't they get the flaming curfews as statistics prove we are more able to stick to the law. Why is it that people are literally offended by the sight of teenagers? What have we done to deserve this? It's so offensive as I have never been arrested but the assumption is that I will be.

Stacie L (author) on July 25, 2011:

@MyFavoriteBedding: thank you for your thoughtful comments on this subject of juvenile curfew laws

MyFavoriteBedding from United States on July 25, 2011:

What a great hub! There are to many parents out there that are not doing there job and let their kids run wild. AND there are many parents who CHOOSE to work, when 1 parent could be home with their children, but "keeping up with the Jones" is more important to them. If 1 parent CAN be home, or even work part time, then that is what they should do. Your children are young for such a short time in your life, why not spend time with your kids, while being available to guide them. I could go on and on, but won't. The last thing I have to say is "nothing ever good happens after midnight"

Stacie L (author) on November 26, 2009:

thanks for commenting thoward2828;

that's an interesting idea....

thoward2828 on November 25, 2009:

I feel there should be some type of water mark on the ID cards of the teenager that most be out at a certain time, this will help the teenagers and their parents wih the police interaction.

Stacie L (author) on July 31, 2009:

NYMiskovic; thank you for your comments; I think this is an important issue and there are parents who are not doing their job so the law has to step in..

Kara Leigh Miller from Oswego, NY on July 31, 2009:

This was a very informative, well written hub. I have 5 children of my own and although they are not old enough to have to worry about curfews yet, you can bet they will have them!

State imposed curfews are a good idea in my opinion because they will be in place for those parents who do not enforce one themselves.

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