My 14-year-old was taken into custody and charged for violating curfew because she was found outdoors at 4 a.m. How will this affect her immediate and long-term future?

Curfew laws are "status offenses," or acts that would not be crimes if committed by an adult. Truancy (skipping school), possession of alcohol or tobacco, and running away are other examples of status offenses. Curfew laws are usually local city or county ordinances that prohibit young people (usually under age 18) from being out in public during certain hours. Each jurisdiction (city/town and/or county) has its own curfew laws, so it is a good idea for all parents to ask local authorities about the hours for curfew and to tell their children about these restrictions too.

Curfew violations and other status offenses are occasionally handled without entering the juvenile court system. Police officers can issue warnings or refer minors to administrative agencies designed to deal with juvenile issues, but sometimes a court appearance is necessary.

The juvenile court system operates separately from both the civil and criminal court systems. Juvenile court addresses delinquency cases and abuse and neglect cases.

Delinquent offenses, or acts committed by minors under age 17 that are considered crimes regardless of the age of the person committing them (possession of illegal drugs, assault, robbery).

Punishments for curfew violations vary by jurisdiction. Common penalties include: fines, mandatory home or community service, driver’s license restrictions, and in some instances even detention in a juvenile correctional facility. Often local police can exercise judgment about whether to ticket or charge a juvenile, but this varies widely by jurisdiction. Judges may also decide to offer leniency to first-time offenders or based on the circumstances of a given case.

While juvenile records remain sealed (inaccessible to the public) until age 18, there are procedures to keep some or all of a minor’s record sealed once they reach legal age. Because every case is unique, it is difficult to say whether or how a conviction for a curfew violation will impact your child’s future educational or employment opportunities. If you are not sure whether an attorney can help resolve your particular situation, contact us for a free consultation.

*DISCLAIMER: The questions and answers presented on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they establish an attorney-client relationship.