Should Teens Under 18 Be Subject to Curfew Laws
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 any 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 CityLimits.com.
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 to 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 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, Virgina.
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’s 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.
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.
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 hoursof 10pm to 6am, for example.
They 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 save 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 are 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 name 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 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.
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
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 courts 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.
Summary of why minors should be subject to legal curfews
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 to 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 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 .
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© 2009 Stacie L