INDIANAPOLIS A federal judge yesterday issued a preliminary ruling upholding Indiana's curfew law, allowing the state to enforce the law until the lawsuit challenging it is decided.
U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder found that attorneys for the Indiana Civil Liberties Union failed to show "a realistic threat" that minors would be arrested on curfew violations when they were exercising their First Amendment rights.
The ICLU had sued on behalf of a Marion County parent, arguing that the state's new curfew law, passed this year by the General Assembly, violated the First Amendment because police officers could arrest anyone under 18 who is out after curfew 11 p.m. weeknights and 1 a.m. during the weekend.
Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson praised Tinder's ruling, saying the state's curfew law is a "useful tool" that gives parents more control and involvement in their children's lives. "We are pleased with the court's decision and will use the curfew law to keep kids from committing crimes or becoming victims," Peterson said in a statement.
Kenneth Falk, the ICLU's legal director, said the group would probably appeal Tinder's ruling on the request for a preliminary injunction. Falk said the possibility of arrest, even under the infrequent circumstances described by the judge, would lead to a "pretty severe chill" on teens' willingness to exercise their First Amendment rights during curfew hours.
The state law allows youths to be out during curfew if accompanied by an adult or attending an activity involving free speech or a religious gathering, which are both protected under the First Amendment.
The law, however, made these exceptions a legal defense at trial rather than an outright prohibition against arrest.
Tinder also ruled that the curfew law did not interfere in an unconstitutional manner with parental rights. The decision to let a minor be out during curfew hours was "not central to personal dignity and autonomy," he said.