Debate Heats Up Over Constitutionality Of Minor Curfew Law

A new state curfew law has armed police with the power to sweep the streets clean of teenagers late at night.

"There's a lot of things going on out here at night that most kids shouldn't see," one police officer said.

If you're under 18 years of age, and out after 11 p.m. on weeknights or 1 a.m. on weekends, you're breaking the law — even if you're with your parents.

"When kids are unsupervised late at night, they tend to be people who commit crimes ... or commit vandalism, and — more importantly — in many cases, become victims of crime," Indianapolis attorney Scott Chinn said.

But some say the state is the one guilty of committing a crime by violating the rights of minors.

"If kids went to a political protest, death penalty protest, some sort of meeting that let out after 11 o'clock, they are liable to be arrested for curfew violation," Ken Falk of the Indiana Civil Liberties Union said.

The ICLU is suing to throw the law out by challenging its constitutionality.

"As a parent I should have the right, and under the Constitution — I think — I do have the right to decide when my kids are old enough to be out after curfew," Falk said.

But business operators near one popular teen hangout support the curfew law, saying something needs to be done to keep wayward kids in line.

"I get tired of cleaning up the graffiti in the restrooms or, you know, the toilet paper everywhere," one store manager said.
So far, Indiana and Hawaii are the only states with a curfew law. Legislators in other states say they're considering one too, but they're watching to see whether Indiana's curfew stands up in court.

For the time being, at least, Indiana minors will have to play by the rules, no matter how much they dislike them.

"I don't like to be in by 11 o'clock," one teenager said. "I like to stay out and chill all night."

Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.