Thursday, June 19, 2008

Austin City Council Considering Revision to Curfew

Earlier this week, I wrote about a proposed curfew in Pembroke Pines, Florida. Now, the state capital of Texas is reviewing its policies concerning juveniles and late-night socializing. Yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman printed an article about a change being discussed by the City Council to standardize curfew times across Austin.

The curfew law passed in 1990 established different curfews depending on the part of the city in which you found yourself. The curfew goes into effect at 10:00 pm in the downtown area. The curfew in the southeastern part of the city starts at 11:00 p.m. Finally, curfew in the rest of the city starts at 11:30 p.m. That is a confusing set of boundaries for adults, let alone teenagers to follow! If the City Council approves the change, the curfew would be 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. across the city.

As Assistant Police Chief David Carter said. "We want to simplify [the curfew policies] and remove some of those opportunities for misunderstanding."

The percentage of all arrests that involved juveniles fell from 12% to 7% since the original curfew law was passed in 1990. This statistic certainly is a compelling argument to make the curfew even more sensible and easy to enforce.

Despite the success of the curfew, the Constitutional concerns over freedom of speech and assembly are still being raised on blogs and in newspaper commentaries by those who oppose any curfew at all. It should be noted that exceptions are made in the Austin city ordinance law for juveniles who are working, attending religious services or just traveling through the Austin area. And, the president of the Central Texas chapter of the ACLU supports a nighttime curfew. So, I cannot imagine we will see a substantial disagreement concerning the overall future of the Austin curfew. The only question to be answered is – will the curfew remain staggered or become uniform? The attorneys in our Austin office with teenagers will be waiting to see!

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