Many cities have a juvenile curfew law in place. Cities and states enact such status offenses to keep kids out of trouble and to provide parents with support in monitoring their children's activities. Most of these laws have exceptions, such as when a minor works late. Violators mostly get fines. Yet, repeat offenses could result in a court order to perform community service, driver's license restrictions, or other penalties. Curfew ordinances in cities may also ban adults from being out with minors after curfew when no exception applies.
To understand juvenile curfew laws and penalties, review the following examples of juvenile curfew laws (and penalties) in states and U.S. cities.
State Curfew Laws
Not all states have juvenile curfew laws. In several states, setting a juvenile curfew remains a local concern. Practically speaking, curfew violations represent minor crimes or infractions. State law enforcement resources normally support state law enforcement agencies like the highway patrol. States will also provide financial and logistical support to local jurisdictions, such as training and crime lab services related to serious crimes.
Florida has a statewide juvenile curfew law. In enacting its law, Florida cited goals of reducing juvenile crime and protecting young people from harm. The law bars any minor child (under 16 years of age) from being in public on Sunday to Thursday from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the next day (with exceptions for legal holidays) on Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays from 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Any minor child suspended or expelled from school also may not be in public or 1,000 feet from any school from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during any school day.
On a first curfew violation, the police will give the juvenile offender a written warning. Next offenses can result in a $50 fine and costs. If the police officer takes the juvenile into custody, they will attempt to reach the child's parents for pickup. If they can't contact the parents or the parents refuse to retrieve the child, the police can take the child to the child's home or proceed to process the child as a dependent child and locate a shelter placement. Parents can get a citation for a curfew offense if they allow their juvenile child to violate the law.
As with local curfew laws, Florida's statewide offense has several exemptions. If the child's conduct falls under an exemption, then the curfew laws do not apply. An exemption occurs when the child is:
- With a parent, legal guardian, or other authorized adult engaged in an emergency
- Traveling to or from an activity that represents an exercise of their First Amendment rights
- Going to or from lawful employment or otherwise engaged in lawful employment in a public place
- Returning home from a function sponsored by their school, church, or civic organization
- On the property of their home or sidewalk or their adult neighbor's home or sidewalk with the adult neighbor's permission
- Engaged in interstate or intrastate travel with their parent's permission
- At an organized event at and sponsored by a theme park or entertainment complex as defined by statute
As Florida's law demonstrates, most curfew laws are misdemeanor criminal offenses or minor violations.
Indiana also has a statewide juvenile curfew law. In Indiana, the minor child's age can vary the curfew hours. A minor child under 15 years of age has a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day every day. A minor child of 15-17 years of age has the same weekday curfew, but on Friday and Saturday nights, the curfew does not begin until 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Cities and counties in states with curfew laws can enact the state code provisions or their own more restrictive provisions as they see fit. To determine the curfew in your community, you may need to check state law and local ordinances for clarity.
Examples of Juvenile Curfew Laws in U.S. Cities
Most juvenile curfew laws appear in cities and counties. Criminal justice practitioners and academics debate the effectiveness of these laws. Advocates find that the laws can prevent underage DUI offenses and motor vehicle accidents. They also seek to use them to reduce criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency. Critics point to repeated studies that fail to show reduced juvenile arrests or crime in general from such curfews.
Below is a summary of the local curfews for juveniles in several U.S. cities. Note the similarities and differences between the local ordinances and the state law of Florida cited above.
Under the Birmingham curfew law, unsupervised children under 17 can't be on Birmingham streets or in public after 9 p.m. on weekdays and after 11 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Curfew ends each morning at 6 a.m. The curfew also applies during daytime school hours. Fines for curfew violations begin at $500 for each offense, and parents may also face liability for their child's curfew violations under the Birmingham law. On a third or later offense, the offender may face up to six months in county jail or a $500 fine for this misdemeanor offense.
The Birmingham ordinance provides defenses that are like Florida's exemptions. It calls for a police officer to ask the child for their age and reason for being in a public place. If the officer finds probable cause for a violation, they can detain the juvenile until release to a parent or legal guardian.
More information: Birmingham Curfew Law (Birmingham Code of Ordinances, Chapter 11, Title 6, Section 11-6-20).
Columbus, Ohio, requires minors under 13 to be home from one hour after sunset to 4:30 a.m. the following day. For minor children ages 13 through 17, the curfew runs each night from midnight to 4:30 a.m. Exceptions to the law include those in the military or attending business school or an institution of higher learning. The law also does not apply to a minor accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other adults with care or custody of the child or one on an emergency or legitimate business errand directed by a parent. A curfew violation is a third-degree misdemeanor offense. An offender can face up to $500 in fines, 60 days in jail, or both.
More information: Minor's Curfew (Columbus Code of Ordinances)
District of Columbia
In D.C., people under 17 can't remain in a public place or on the premises of any establishment open to the public during curfew hours, subject to certain exceptions. Curfew hours in D.C. are 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day on Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday (and every day during July and August).
Exceptions include situations where the minor is with a parent or guardian or on a legitimate errand for the parent or guardian. They include emergencies, employment, while exercising First Amendment rights, and activities sponsored by their school, church, or civic organization. When a minor travels interstate in a motor vehicle, bus, or train, the curfew will also not apply.
Adult offenders can face up to $500 in fines and costs for an offense. Juvenile offenders can face up to 25 hours of community service for a crime in Family or Juvenile Court.
More information: D.C. Curfew law (D.C. Law 11-48; Code of the District of Columbia 2-1543)
Los Angeles, California
The City of Los Angeles curfew law bans people under 18 from being outside or in public places between 10 p.m. and sunrise, subject to several exceptions like other cities. One exception includes going to or coming from public entertainment like movies. Los Angeles also has a daytime curfew for those required to attend school during regular school hours. Curfew violations are punishable by fines and costs. Courts can also order community service work as part of a sentence.
More information: City of Los Angeles Curfew Manual (Los Angeles Police Department)
City of Los Angeles Nighttime Curfew Ordinance (LAMC 45.03)
In Philadelphia, curfew hours vary based on the minor child's age. Children 13 years of age and younger may not be in public from 9:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. on the following day. Children between 14 and 17 years of age may not be in public from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. the next day. Philadelphia's curfew law has similar exceptions found in other cities and states.
Violations of Philadelphia's curfew law can result in up to $300 in fines and costs for the child's parent or legal guardian. No penalty will apply for a homeless minor child.
More information: Philadelphia Curfew Law Summary (City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services). Philadelphia Code Sections 10-301 to 10-309 (Curfew Ordinances)
Controversies About Juvenile Curfew Laws
Traditionally, local governments used curfew laws to address truancy issues or incidents of vandalism and graffiti by young people. Increases in violent crime and shootings involving minors have heightened public safety concerns in many communities.
Local jurisdictions often react to increases in juvenile crime with proposals to strengthen curfew laws or enforcement. Yet, there is scant evidence that the threat of juvenile detention or fines reduces crime. For law-abiding citizens, the juvenile curfew may only serve as a welcome backup to parental curfews and restrictions.
The City of San Diego maintains a juvenile curfew law that requires any minor child (under 18) to stay out of public places or the premises of business establishments within the city during curfew hours. Curfew hours run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day. San Diego provides for the standard exceptions.
A recent PBS story highlighted the disconnect between proponents and opponents of these laws. San Diego made 141 curfew arrests in 2022. Black and Latino youth make up 75% of the arrests. Yet, the city's community profile demonstrates that only 34% of residents are Hispanic and 5% are Black. Opponents of juvenile curfew laws suggest that young people picked up in curfew sweeps often have negative impressions of police. This can lead from a juvenile record to an adult record in later years.
In 2021, Texas passed a state law banning juvenile curfews at the state and local levels. The legislation's sponsor stated that the law will "allow young Texans opportunities to succeed without having the burden of a criminal record early in life." The state also cited studies showing the ineffectiveness of juvenile curfews in preventing crime. Opponents in other communities have also challenged local curfew laws and taken action to end them.
Charged With a Curfew Violation? Consider Meeting With an Attorney
Juvenile curfew laws and penalties can vary between cities and states. If you or your minor child have a citation for a juvenile curfew law violation, you should consider talking with a criminal defense attorney specializing in juvenile law. An experienced local criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the juvenile or adult legal system.