Facts About Teen Curfews

Take a look at the facts about teenagers’ curfews before you decide what is right for your teen and your community. Teenagers and their parents often debate this topic. There are many people who believe that imposing a curfew for teenagers will reduce juvenile crime and victimization. 

It is considered a violation of teenagers’ civil rights to impose a curfew.

Legal Precedence

A number of court cases have dealt with the issue of teen curfews, with varying outcomes.

Bykofsky v. Borough of Middletown

Taking up the issue of juvenile court cases for the first time in 1975 was Bykofsky v. Borough of Middletown. The curfew in Middletown, Pennsylvania violated the rights of parents under the first and fourteenth amendments. Preserving the safety of the teenagers outweighed the violation of their freedoms, the court ruled.

Qutb v. Strauss

One of the first court cases dealing with juvenile curfews was Qutb v. Strauss. A few parents requested a temporary restraining order against Dallas’ juvenile curfew ordinance in 1991, which prohibited teens under 18 from being in public places after 11 p.m. through 6 a.m. The city amended the ordinance, but the court upheld it.

Hodgkins v. Peterson

A curfew violation led to three teens being arrested in Indianapolis in 1999. According to the lawsuit, the curfew violated the first amendment rights of minors. In Hodgkins v. Peterson, the Indiana Supreme Court struck down the curfew and set limitations on curfew laws going forward.

Ramos v. Town of Vernon

The ACLU praised the courts in 2003 for overturning a juvenile curfew ordinance in Vernon, Connecticut. Teenagers under 18 were prohibited from being out after 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on weekends in an effort to curb crime. In Ramos v. Town of Vernon, plaintiffs argued that the ordinance violated minors’ rights under the first, fourth, and fourteenth amendments.

Studies on Curfews

City Mayors Foundation

According to the City Mayors Foundation, over 500 U.S. cities had curfews in 2009, but little is known about their effectiveness. A curfew program in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which combined punitive consequences with mentoring, adult role models, and stronger communication between all parties involved, was described by the foundation as an effective curfew.

American Academy of Political and Social Science

The Effectiveness of Juvenile Curfews at Crime Prevention, a study completed by Kenneth Adams of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, showed that there is more to effectively fighting juvenile crime than just arresting kids and fining their parents. Community involvement is the key to solving this issue. 

The study argued that a curfew will only act as a tool to identify a problem; laws and law enforcement are not the only solutions.

Western Criminology Review

The Analysis of Curfew Enforcement and Juvenile Crime in California, a 1999 study that appeared in the Western Criminology Review, concludes, “Based on the current evidence, a crime reduction strategy based solely on police intervention has little effect, suggesting that solutions are more complex and multifaceted.” 

Even when the study failed to support the curfews, mayors surveyed said the curfews reduced crime in their towns.

U.S. Conference of Mayors

The U.S. Conference of Mayors surveyed mayors in 347 cities with curfews and found that 88 percent of the cities found that curfews made their streets safer for residents. While only 72 of the 347 cities had daytime curfews, 100 percent of those cities showed a decrease in truancy and daytime crime. 

Gang-related problems also dropped in cities with curfews; 83 percent cited a decrease in gang activity.

Resources About Teenagers’ Curfews

There is a great deal of information available on the web regarding teenage curfew laws. If you plan to vote on a curfew law, or if you intend to argue your position at the next city council meeting, you might want to research both sides of the issue.

  • Teachers and parents can use Youth Outreach’s activity on curfews to open up a discussion with teenagers.
  • There is a collection of studies on teenage curfews available for download and review at the National Youth Rights Association.
  • Curfew debates at Juggle.com feature multiple contributors’ facts and opinions.
  • According to Are Teen Curfews Effective? by Roman Espejo provides an overview of the issue.

Forming an Opinion on Curfews

The research on curfews is largely inconclusive, so you must form your own opinion. Those seeking to defend constitutional rights will have to weigh whether the safety and lower crime rates curfews promote outweigh the violations of constitutional rights curfew opponents seek to defend.

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