William the Conqueror, who reigned as King of England from 1066-1087, established the original curfew law, which required that citizens extinguish all candlelight and fires by eight o’clock each evening. It’s believed the law got its name from the French phrase “couvre few,” which translates to “cover fire”.
Today, “curfew” is a more generalized law that regulates the time at which people should be off the public streets, and can also be used to restrict the operating hours of businesses. Because curfew laws are not outlined in the Federal Constitution, they are regulated by local governments and can vary widely by state, county, or municipality.
Set by state and local governments, juvenile curfew laws are intended to restrict the hours during which minors are allowed to be out in public. After the designated time, anyone under 18 years of age is prohibited from being on the streets or patronizing a business. The purpose of juvenile curfew laws is to prevent criminal activity and protect the health and welfare of minors.
Instances in which juvenile curfew laws are waived:
If a minor is in violation of curfew law, some common reprecussions include:
Depending on the jurisdiction, parents can sometimes be fined or otherwise held accountable for their children’s curfew violations. Local governments often choose to activate curfew laws during certain times of year or when the crime rate has increased. During calmer times when the law is not actively enforced, officers may choose to issue a verbal warning or escort the minor home rather than issuing a ticket or arresting the violator.
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During times of crisis, catastrophe, or natural disaster, the government may choose to enact emergency curfews that set restrictions for all citizens. Some historical reasons for emergency curfews have included hurricanes, blizzards, wildfires, public riots, and dangerous fugitives. When an emergency curfew is put into place, the local government typically specifies certain conditions. For instance, citizens may still be permitted to travel to and from critical job duties or for emergency reasons.
In some cities, business curfew laws restrict the operating hours of certain public establishments, such as grocery stores, restaurants, and liquor stores. These laws are typically enacted in areas with high levels of crime, loitering, and otherwise disorderly conduct. Local governments can choose to activate business curfews for selected time periods in response to criminal activity and large crowd size.
If you believe your rights have been violated, speak to a Civil Rights attorney who can help you with your situation.