Life Under Curfew for American Teens: ‘It’s Insane, No Other Country Does This’

The Guardian came out with an interesting piece on the enforcement of local curfew ordinances and their effect on youth. In the city of San Diego, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be out past 10pm. The city, using its police department, runs sweeps looking for minors out past curfew in all nine districts. Sometimes the SDPD makes dozens of arrests a night.

Conceived as a crime-reduction tactic, curfews were promoted during the “tough on crime” era of the 1990s. They were motivated by the reasoning that parents should know where their minor children are. In California, the city of Monrovia was the first in the state to enact a curfew ordinance. They touted its successes and from there, curfew ordinances spread like wildfire.  These ordinances remain in place decades later.

The strictness of curfews varies by city and state. Baltimore, Maryland, for example, has one of the strictest curfews in the country, while the city of Denver, Colorado only enforces curfew during the summer while school is out. According to available FBI data, there were 2.6 million curfew arrests in the US between 1994 and 2012.

Studies by the American Civil Liberties Union have shown that curfews, while well-intended,  are racially biased and only enforced in poorer, minority-filled areas.

Legal Details of San Diego’s Curfew Ordinance

San Diego’s curfew ordinance is specifically found in San Diego Munic. Code § 58.0102. Under its regulations, a minor under the age of 18 cannot be out without being accompanied by a parent or guardian during the week. Those in violation are cited and subsequently sent to a youth diversion program. Parents can also be cited if they knowingly permit their minor child to be out in public during curfew hours. Additionally, curfew hours differ by jurisdiction. In east San Diego, curfew hours are between 10pm and 6am. In Del Mar, Solana Beach, Poway, Escondido, Chula Vista and Coronado they are from 11pm to 5am.

The statute specifies 10 legal exemptions, such as coming home from a game/school activity or job, being involved in an emergency, or running an errand at the direction of your parent.

San Diego Juvenile Rights and Criminal Defense Attorney

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles misdemeanor and felony cases, along with juvenile crimes and youth issues such as curfew violations. Often a lawyer can ask for alternative sentencing, community service, or a diversion program for minors, especially if they have no prior record. We will do everything in our power to keep you out of ‘juvie.’ Additionally, we will challenge the evidence in the event that we find police misconduct. If you or your child has been charged with a crime, contact the Law offices of David M. Boertje today.