Federal Appeals Court Overturns Juvenile Nighttime Curfew Ordinance in Connecticut Town

Affiliate: ACLU of Connecticut
June 3, 2003 12:00 am

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VERNON, CT-Saying that a juvenile curfew ordinance in place here unjustly interferes with young peoples’ freedom of movement, a federal appeals court today reversed a Connecticut trial court and declared the ordinance unconstitutional in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.

“”This is a tremendous victory for teenagers and their parents throughout Connecticut,”” said Teresa Younger, Executive Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “”Local police departments have many ways of dealing with teenagers who are violating the law – without assuming that all teenagers out late are lawbreakers.””

The Vernon ordinance barred any person under the age of 18 from being out of doors after 11:00 p.m. on school nights or after midnight on weekend nights, with certain exceptions.

The ACLU argued that the local ordinance violated teenagers’ “”right to travel”” under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. The court today agreed, saying “”this right to free movement is a vital component of life in an open society, both for juveniles and adults.””

“”We cannot sit in judgment of a parental philosophy allowing late night activity,”” the court explained, quoting a 2000 Supreme Court case concerning parental rights, “”for ‘between parents and judges, the parents should be the ones to choose whether to expose their children to certain people or ideas.'””

“”This decision is obviously bigger than the Town of Vernon,”” said Philip Tegeler, Legal Director of the ACLU of Connecticut. “”Vernon was one of the first Connecticut towns to restrict teenagers’ rights to this unusual degree. We are very grateful that the court agreed that teenagers have the right to move freely around their towns, and that curfews are between children and their parents, not the state.””

The case, Ramos v. Town of Vernon was handled for the ACLU by Hartford attorney John Schoenhorn and former ACLU staff attorney Ann Parrent.

The decision in the case is available online at: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov:81/isysquery/irl5274/11/doc

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