Cities in California and throughout the country have turned to curfews in an effort to curb youth violence. However, evidence suggests that curfews have done little to reduce crime rates. Instead, some believe that the data shows that they criminalize children and families who may not be engaging in illegal activities.
Some children can’t go home
Curfew laws make few exceptions for those who are caught in public during restricted periods. This may be problematic for children who are on the street because they don’t want to go to an abusive home. It’s also possible that children would rather spend time in public as opposed to spending time in a home that may lack heat, running water or adequate food. A child defendant may be able to point to this fact as part of a criminal defense strategy.
Poor time management isn’t a crime
Children may be ticketed or taken into custody simply because they were late getting out of class or got out of work later than anticipated. A minor may also be found in violation of curfew simply for wanting to visit with friends before heading home or for dropping off a younger relative at home or at daycare.
Children may become fearful
Minors may be placed in handcuffs and searched during an interaction with police. If they are formally charged with violating curfew, they may be taken to youth centers or otherwise separated from their parents for several hours. This may result in children who are fearful of the police or who don’t believe that authorities are there to do anything other than harass them. Parents may also be punished depending on the circumstances of a case, which may cause more anxiety for kids who may be cited for doing little more than loitering.
Those who are found to be in violation of curfew laws may be fined, spend time in custody or face other sanctions. Casting doubt on evidence or asserting that there was no intent to break the law may be effective in getting a charge reduced or dropped.