New Jersey Council Stiffens Curfew Law

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
March 12, 1999 12:00 am

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PASSAIC, NJ — The City Council here has introduced a curfew ordinance that would require children under 16 to be off the streets by 10 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends, the Bergen Record reported today.

The paper reported that children and parents alike would be held responsible for violations. A child could be required to perform community service. Parents could be fined up to $1,000 and required to do community service.

In a phone interview with the Record, Lenora Lapidus, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said the ACLU objects to laws that she said criminalize behavior of otherwise innocent people.

“We believe teen curfews infringe on young people’s right to be on the public streets, to associate freely with their friends, and to travel. And we also believe that these curfews infringe on the parents’ right to raise their children as they see fit.”

Lapidus told the paper that the ACLU is fighting court battles against South Orange and West New York, both of which have implemented curfews.

However, the Record reports that Passaic officials said the ordinance was carefully crafted to withstand legal challenges. For instance, it allows children to be out if they are with a parent or guardian. Furthermore, they can go to and from work, or to religious or cultural events.

The city has had a curfew ordinance on the books for years, but it has been unenforced because it is vaguely written.

If the latest proposal is passed, a violation would require children to perform community service with their parents, the Record said. Also, it would impose parental fines of up to $100 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense, and $1,000 for subsequent violations.

According to the paper, Mayor Margie Semler has expressed reservations about a curfew, saying she worries that if police can’t immediately locate a child’s parents, they would be stuck “baby-sitting” children in police headquarters, resulting in fewer officers on the street.

And Police Chief Stanley A. Jarensky, while saying a curfew ordinance would be a useful tool for police, told the paper that the department would not be able to make enforcement a top priority every night.

Source: The Bergen Record, March 12, 1999

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