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Idaho appeals court throws out city's curfew law

By The Associated Press
04.01.09

BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Court of Appeals said yesterday that curfew rules in the town of Wendell violate the constitutional rights of kids.

In the unanimous ruling, the appellate court agreed with a teenage boy identified only as John Doe, who was ticketed for being out past curfew when he was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by police for a traffic violation.

Doe’s attorney, David Heida, argued before the court in January that the city rule barring youngsters under 18 from being out between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. violates the First Amendment because it doesn’t allow an exception for free-speech activities, like midnight church services or attending late-running city council meetings.

Representing the south-central Idaho town, Idaho Deputy Attorney General Kenneth Jorgensen told the court that the appeal had no merit because Heida failed to offer any evidence that the teen was exercising his constitutional rights or had parental permission to be out after curfew when he was ticketed.

But the appellate court found that the city’s rule was simply too broad.

“There is a real and substantial risk that the ordinance will inhibit the speech of parties not before the court,” Judge Sergio A. Gutierrez wrote. “Therefore the Wendell curfew ordinance is void on its face.”

The ordinance’s three exceptions allow minors to be out after curfew if they have to run emergency errands, if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian, or if they are out on legitimate business authorized by a parent or the school.

“The Wendell curfew ordinance does not specifically target First Amendment activities; rather it aims to control certain conduct deemed harmful to the well-being of the city. However, by controlling conduct, the ordinance also controls expression,” Gutierrez wrote for the panel, which included Chief Judge Karen L. Lansing and Judge Darrel R. Perry. “If a minor wishes to attend a midnight church service, participate in a city council meeting, or join a protest voicing any number of social or political views, he must first weigh that desire against the possibility of being cited for violating the curfew ordinance.”


Related

Alaska high court upholds Anchorage curfew

Unanimous ruling finds municipality has 'compelling interest in protecting juveniles and curbing juvenile crime.' 05.17.04

Ind. city to fine teens, parents for curfew violations

Under Plymouth's new ordinance, which is tougher than state law, juveniles would be fined $10 for first offense and $25 for second, while their parents would be fined $50 for third. 06.11.08

N.Y. high court strikes down city's youth curfew
Justices say Rochester's ordinance violates children's free-expression, -association rights and gives parents too little flexibility and autonomy in supervising their kids. 06.10.09

N.J. city considers imposing adult curfew to curtail crime
Experts say proposed Paterson ordinance could be nation's first citywide, non-emergency curfew to include adults. 08.19.09

Mass. high court rejects teen curfew's criminal penalties
Justices uphold Lowell curfew, but say that criminal prosecution of a minor, with the potential for state confinement, 'is an extraordinary and unnecessary response.' 09.29.09

Curfews, loitering & freedom of association


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