Tuesday, June 9, 2009

N.Y. Court of Appeals Invalidates Curfew Law for Minors

A divided New York Court of Appeals today ruled unconstitutional the curfew law established by the City of Rochester for minors. Jiovan Anonymous v. City of Rochester.

The ordinance passed by the Rochester City Council defines a "minor" as a person under the age of 17. It prohibits minors from being in any public place in the city from midnight to 5 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. the other days of the week. There are certain exceptions, such as when the minor is accompanied by his parent and guardian. There is, however, no parental consent exception. 

Judge Jones' opinion identifies two constitutional rights which are at stake: a minor's constitutional right to freely move about in public, and a parent's due process right to raise his children as he thinks best. 

A minor's freedom of movement, however, can be curtailed in ways that would be unconstitutional if applied to an adult, and a parent's right to raise his children in a manner he thinks best can be curtailed by the state's legitimate interest in reducing juvenile crime and preventing the victimization of minors during nighttime hours.

But to curtail these constitutional rights Rochester must demonstrate that the curfew ordinance is "substantially related" to these governmental goals. "Quite simply, the proof offered by the City fails to support the aims of the curfew in this case." 

The Court noted that while the city ordinance was motivated by the killings of three minors, two of these deaths actually occurred outside the curfew hours, and the third - a minor adjudicated a person in need of supervision - was already under an individualized curfew. Nor did the crime statistics support the curfew law: they actually show that minors are far more likely to commit or be victims of crime outside the curfew hours. This evidence, therefore, provided no justification for curtailing a minor's constitutional right to freedom of movement. 

The ordinance also unconstitutionally burdens a parent's due process right to raise his children because "the curfew fails to offer parents enough flexibility or autonomy in supervising their children....Indeed, an exception allowing for parental consent to the activities of minors during curfew hours is of paramount importance to the due process rights of parents." The Rochester law has no parental consent exception. If a parental consent exception were included in the curfew law, "it would be a closer case."  

While Judge Pigott in dissent would uphold the law in the absence of a parental consent exception, he did note, "Equipped with a parental consent exception, I think it might have been a model city curfew." 


  1. Government curfews are unamerican.

  2. The government shouldnt be telling teenagers to be indoor by certain times and They cant arrest us if were outside after the curfew.
    They would need a reason to arrest us like doing something bad like damaging schools or houses. The government can't controll when were outside because its against equal rights and everybody should be in doors by the curfew time and not just teens. They government should be doing a better job on they government and not controlling when teenagers should be in doors