Washington's Teen Curfew to Start Soon
WASHINGTON, DC – With school out for the summer, teenagers nationwide can look forward to two months of freedom and carefree summer nights. But not in Washington, The New York Times reported today.
A federal appeals court ruled late last week that teen-agers do not have an unrestricted right to roam the streets late at night and that a youth curfew is constitutional. The law, an effort to reduce crime, bars those under 17 from being in a public place unaccompanied by a parent or guardian between 11 P.M. and 6 A.M. Monday through Thursday, and midnight to 6 A.M. Friday through Sunday.
The Appeals court’s ruling lifts an injunction that has prevented Washington police from enforcing the law since 1996.
But the American Civil Liberties Union is critical of the law, viewing it as an infringement of free movement and saying that the law intrudes on parent’s rights to raise their children as they see fit.
“As long as people are not acting illegally and irresponsibly and they have their parent’s permission, then they should be able to move freely,” former National Capital Area ACLU president Robert S. Plotkin told the Times.
“The curfew presumes that all parents are making bad decisions and bad choices as a blanket rule.”
Some democrats on the District Council also disagreed with the curfew law.
“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Phil Mendelson, a democrat on the Council told the Times. “As a government, we have to be circumspect about laws that curtail freedom. If we want to cut crime we need to deal more with the problems associated with crime, not people being out of their homes.”
According to the Times, breaking the curfew could result in 25 hours of community service for young offenders. Parents could be ordered to pay fines up to $500 for allowing children to disobey the curfew. There are eight exceptions to the law, including errands sanctioned by parents or guardians, emergencies and certain kinds of employment.
Earlier this month, the ACLU filed a legal challenge to a curfew law in Alaska. Read our release at /news/1999/n061899a.html.
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