Court Strikes Down NJ City's Curfew

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
May 4, 2001 12:00 am

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NEWARK, NJ — A superior court judge ruled today that a West Orange curfew ordinance, under challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, suffered from the same unconstitutional flaws as a West New York curfew that was struck down earlier this year by an appeals court.

Today’s decision by Judge Kenneth S. Levy, barred enforcement of the curfew. Levy held that exceptions to the curfew were so vague that they failed to inform people what conduct would be prohibited and what would not be permitted.

“It makes no sense to criminalize the innocent activities of numerous good kids, the proper response to juvenile crime is to arrest the criminals, not to place all law-abiding young people under house arrest,” said J.C. Salyer, Staff Attorney of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. “The police already have the ability to arrest juveniles when they break the law, the curfew would have added nothing except giving police the right to arrest the innocent as well.”

The suit was brought on behalf of two West Orange families by Richard S. Lehrich, an attorney in Cranford, who is handling the case for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

In the appeals court ruling in the West New York case, which was also brought by the ACLU of New Jersey, the Appellate Division recognized that there was a “strong constitutional presumption in favor of parental authority over government authority.”

Studies have repeatedly shown that curfews are an ineffective crime-fighting tool. A recent comprehensive study of curfew enforcement in California by the Justice Policy Institute found that curfew enforcement had no discernible effect on juvenile crime, and in many jurisdictions, juvenile crime actually increased. In addition, federal crime statistics show that the majority of juvenile crimes occur during non-curfew hours, peaking between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Plaintiffs in this lawsuit, Simon v. Township of West Orange, were represented by Richard S. Lehrich of Cranford, New Jersey and J.C. Salyer, staff attorney for the ACLU of New Jersey.

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