In response to the murder of three minors, the City Council of Rochester, New York passed a curfew ordinance. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that the juvenile nighttime curfew violated the Federal and New York State Constitutional rights of minors, as well as their parents.
Under the curfew, it is unlawful for minors to be in any public place between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., except on Friday and Saturday between 12:00 midnight and 5:00 a.m. A minor is defined as a person under the age of 17, except if married or legally emancipated.
The curfew provided for exceptions if the minor was: accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or other responsible adult; engaged in a lawful employment activity or was going to or returning home from his or her place of employment; involved in an emergency situation; going to, attending, or returning home from an official school, religious or other recreational activity sponsored and/or supervised by a public entity or a civic organization; in the public place for the specific purpose of exercising fundamental rights such as freedom of speech or religion or the right of assembly protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution or Article I of the Constitution of the State of New York, as opposed to generalized social association with others; or engaged in interstate travel.
The court concluded that the crime statistics produced by the City of Rochester do not support the objectives of its curfew. Minors are 64% to 160% more likely to be a crime victim on Saturdays and Sundays than on weekdays.
These statistics and other facts showed an obvious disconnect between crime statistics and the nighttime curfew. No effort was made by the City of Rochester to ensure that the population targeted by the ordinance represented that part of the population that was either causing trouble or being victimized.
In addition to violating the rights of minors, the curfew violated the due process rights of parents. An exception allowing for parental consent to the activities of minors during curfew hours is of paramount importance to the due process rights of parents. Although the law allowed parents to permit their minor children to be out after curfew, it also required that the parent accompany the minor child.
The New York Court of Appeals stated that if a parental consent exception were included in this curfew, it would be a closer case. Courts have upheld curfews having, among other things, such an exception as only minimally intrusive upon the parent’s due process rights. Yet, the Court found that parental consent which also requires parental custody is more of an intrusion upon parental rights than is permissible.