Ordinance must contain more exemptions to comply with Constitution

Hopewell, VA – In a letter faxed this afternoon, the ACLU of Virginia has asked Hopewell City Council to amend a proposed teen curfew ordinance scheduled for a vote at its meeting tonight.
The proposed curfew requires that all individuals under 18 years of age be accompanied by a parent or in their homes by 11:00 p.m., unless they are at work or attending religious ceremonies or at other meetings sponsored by public schools or organizations such as the boy scouts and girl scouts.
In the letter to Hopewell city officials, ACLU of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca K. Glenberg writes that an ordinance similar to the one proposed in Hopewell was struck down as unconstitutional by a federal court in California because it did not contain exemptions for many legitimate activities in which minors may be engaged.
Glenberg proposes that Hopewell amend its ordinance to be more like Charlottesville’s, which was upheld by a Virginia federal court a dozen years ago. That ordinance provides for several additional situations in which minors could legitimately be away from home after curfew hours, including emergencies, traveling to and from work, on a sidewalk in front of their own home, an errand under direction of a parent, interstate travel, and when exercising a right protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
“It is parents, not the government, who should be making decisions about how late their children stay out at night,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “This is one of those private places where government has no business. Parental rights are significantly eroded whenever the government passes a teen curfew ordinance.”
“Confining people to their homes against their will is a form of imprisonment,” added Willis. “Curfews should be put in place only when there are extreme circumstances that justify the restrictions, and even then they should be temporary. I don’t see any sunset provision in this ordinance.”
Click here for a copy of Glenberg's letter (pdf).
Contact: Kent Willis (office) 804-644-8022

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