Austin’s Nighttime Curfew May be Rescinded

Young people under the age of 17 face a nighttime curfew if they go out in Austin. However, the city’s interim police chief Brian Manley is urging the city council to scrap it.

Earlier in the year, Manley supported the curfew. The Statesman reported he told the Public Safety Commission he changed his mind in September. Manley said if the council agreed and there was a rise in crime, he would ask elected officials to reinstate it.

Under Austin’s nighttime curfew, it’s a misdemeanor crime for anyone under the age of 17 to be out in the city in public or in a business between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. In June, the City Council terminated the city’s daytime curfew, which required controls between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on school days.

Under Texas law, any city curfew will expire unless it’s reviewed and readopted every three years. Austin has had a curfew law in place since 1990.

The Public Safety Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the City Council get rid of the curfew following the interim police chief’s comments.

Manley said he changed his mind on the issue after hearing from a working group that the City Council formed to study the issue.

Austin's Nighttime curfew

Austin’s Nighttime curfew is questioned

He looked at five cases in which police handed out formal warnings to young people who flouted curfews. Manley said the officer had other legal reasons to talk to the young people in question besides the curfew violation.

Manley said the study looked at the data. It focused on what was really happening on the streets. He said officers would have the ability to interact with young people on the streets at night to ensure their safety.

Commissioners said abandoning the city’s curfew would not stop an officer from stopping a teen and asking if he or she needed a ride home.

The working group recommended that the city gets rid of its nighttime curfew, said Morgan Craven, a member of the group and an official with Texas Appleseed, which studies the state’s criminal justice system and other social issues.

The group also recommended that the police policy manual address ways to best work with juveniles and that the city’s Municipal Court meet with youth outside the courthouse and consider meetings at libraries and schools.

Other Texas cities including Dallas, Houston, El Paso and Forth Worth have similar nighttime juvenile curfews.

In Austin, the working group comprises police, youth, behavioral experts and social advocates. Manley said the group will continue to meet and look at the impact of a curfew or otherwise on the city’s teens.

Some members of the working group said the criminalization of status offenses can be really harmful for kids. Families cannot afford the fines and the problems become more serious.

The juvenile justice system in Texas can be harsh on young people. A small infraction can set you on a downhill path. If you or one of your kids has been charged with a crime, please contact our Austin criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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