Monday, June 16, 2008

Florida Town Considering Curfew for Teenagers

One of the greatest rites of passage for any teenager is the day that he or she is handed a set of car keys for the first time. My son, who is fifteen years old, is actually anticipating that day. A car means freedom – an evening with friends and no watchful eyes of mom or dad to ruin the fun. However, some of those pesky adults in Pembroke Pines, Florida are threatening to limit the ability of the city’s young people to roam. The commissioners are considering a curfew that would require people under the age of sixteen to be inside after 11:00 pm on weeknights and midnight on weekends.

A primary purpose of the ordinance would be to curb the drag racing that has become popular along the main highway. Right now, the police often arrive to break up this dangerous activity, but can do little beyond telling the teenagers to leave.

The success of the proposed law is questionable. After all, Pembroke Pines already has a curfew law on the books that dates back to 1969 and it is rarely enforced. Also, the courts have generally ruled against the constitutionality of curfews. As explained by attorney Keith Poliakoff, the Florida Supreme Court determined in the case of State of Florida v. J.P. (2004) that “restraining children from freely walking on the streets or other public places when no emergency exists is incompatible with the freedoms of speech, association, peaceful assembly and religion secured to all citizens in the Florida Constitution.''

The city attorney for Pembroke Pines, Sam Goren, insists that the new curfew laws will be written in a way that does not violate previous court rulings. Exceptions will be made for teens who have an emergency, are working or have written permission from their parents.

The new curfew proposals will be brought before the city commissioners this Wednesday evening. Eventually, we may see if these restrictions pass the legal muster that the previous laws did not.

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