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Curfew Laws: Can Teens Really Be Arrested?

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By Robin Enos on May 31, 2011 9:55 AM

Most everybody remembers a parent's curfew--"Be home by 11:00!" But juvenile curfew laws have legal teeth seldom contemplated by the average teenager.

Juvenile curfew laws usually apply to individuals under 18 years old. These laws bar underage individuals from being in public or in a business establishment during certain hours, such as between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

Although several exceptions allow underage individuals out and about after a certain hour at night, curfew laws do remain on the books. Occasionally police do enforce these laws, and teens can end up arrested.

There are some juvenile curfew law exceptions:

  • Accompanied by an adult
  • Instructed to run an errand by an adult
  • At a school or religious event
  • Going to and from work
  • Emergencies

Last month, police in Canton, Ohio arrested two minors for illegal consumption of alcohol and curfew violation, reports the Canton Daily Ledger.

Common sense dictates these laws provide law enforcement a tool to clear a disturbance, get young people out of a high-crime area, or simply do a little quasi-parenting.

Whether juvenile curfew laws help prevent crime led to a major policy debate in 2009 in Oakland, California. Oakland Police have requested the City Council impose a curfew, reports the Contra Costa Times.

So curfew laws do sometimes lead to teen arrests. But it seems more likely juvenile curfew laws will continue to be used by law enforcement as an adjunct to underage drinking and drug laws, or when large crowds of teenagers congregate.

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