“The District of Columbia now (since 1999) has a curfew for all persons under the age of 17”

by Prince Of Petworth May 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm 81 Comments


From MPD:

“The District of Columbia now has a curfew for all persons under the age of 17. It is important for you and your family to know what the law says, how it is being enforced, and what alternative programs there are for young people.

What does the law say?

The Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 (DC Code 2-1541 et. seq.) states that persons under the age of 17 cannot remain in or on a street, park or other outdoor public place, in a vehicle or on the premises of any establishment within the District of Columbia during curfew hours, unless they are involved in certain exempted activities.

What are the curfew hours?

For the months of September through June:

Curfew begins at 11 pm on Sunday through Thursday nights, and continues until 6 am the following day
Curfew hours are 12:01 am to 6 am on Saturday and Sunday (curfew on “Friday night” begins at 12:01 am Saturday; curfew on “Saturday night” begins at 12:01 am Sunday)

During July and August only:

Curfew hours are 12:01 am to 6 am, seven days a week

Does the curfew law apply to non-District residents?

Yes. The curfew law applies to all persons under the age of 17 who are in the District of Columbia during curfew hours. This includes both District residents as well as young people who reside elsewhere.
What are the penalties for violating the law?

A parent or legal guardian of a juvenile under the age of 17 commits an offense if he or she knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows, the minor to violate the curfew law. Any adult who violates the Juvenile Curfew Act is subject to a fine not to exceed $500 or community service. A minor who violates curfew may be ordered to perform up to 25 hours of community service.

Persons under the age of 17 are exempt from curfew if they:

Accompany a parent or guardian
Complete an errand at the direction of a parent or guardian, without detour or stop
Ride in a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel
Work or return home from a job, without detour or stop
Become involved in an emergency
Stand on a sidewalk that joins their residence or the residence of a next-door neighbor, if the neighbor did not complain to police
Attend an official school, religious, or other recreational activity sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization, or other similar group that takes responsibility for the juvenile (this includes traveling to and from the activity)
Exercise their First Amendment rights protected by the US Constitution, including the free exercise of speech, religion, and right of assembly

Why is the curfew law being enforced now?

Passed in 1995, DC’s curfew law was set up to protect the health and safety of young people and our communities. After the law was challenged in court, MPD stopped enforcement until the court decided whether the law was constitutional. In June 1999, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the law to be constitutional. The District began enforcing the law again in the fall of 1999.

What alternative programs are there for young people?

The District of Columbia has a variety of programs and centers that serve young people seeking alternatives to being on the streets, including social, educational, recreational, and counseling services. For more programs, call the District’s Answers Please! helpline at (202) INFO-211 (463-6211) or online at answersplease.dc.gov.”

  • EB

    So doesn’t the final exemption nullify this whole thing? If they simply say “i’m exercising my 1st amendment right to free assembly” that should put them in the clear?

    • anonannoyed

      I believe there was a supreme court case about the curfew when it was first enacted, and the resolution was that it’s not unconstitutional as long they have that exemption.

    • jdre

      I’m no law-student, but I think “free assembly” has more qualifiers to it than hanging out on a proverbial corner would meet. I think you’d have to show you were purposefully “demonstrating/rallying” about something.

      That said, I suppose it could be gamed – play street hockey at midnight but have two friends hold picket signs, and you’re golden.

      • MCR

        Nope. Free assembly includes the freedom of association: http://constitution.findlaw.com/amendment1/annotation12.html

        • jdre

          I thought that just applied to the right of a group not to have to give member’s names, and of a member to not have to state any group memberships (e.g., “Are you now, or have you ever been…”), and other rights of groups/members, as such.
          I’m still not sure a group of kids hanging out in a park at 2 am necessarily can be equated with either free assembly or free association — which is why I’m being cheeky and saying they could just say it was a union meeting.
          But perhaps you mean since groups don’t need to identify themselves or their members, the cheeky joke is moot?
          idk. Either way I was being more silly than serious – but now you’ve made me curious about the actual law.

    • logandude

      Gives new meaning to “some assembly required,” doesn’t it?

      • [rrrrr]

        +1 Top class pun

      • anon

        ba dum tish

  • Los

    Is this for real? I live in Adams Morgan so I’m not a fan of teens and their late night antics, but this sounds unconstitutional, specially with the overreach into private spaces.

    Over-Under that this will be overturned: 30 days?

    • Anon

      I agree on all counts, but it was declared constitutional in 99

    • nevermindtheend

      The post says it was implemented in 1995, so it seems unlikely to be overturned in 30 days.

      • Los

        Never mind the(e)n(d)

        Posting while working does not allow for much time to cross check footnotes ;)

  • Skeptik

    This is great news in theory but does anyone really think it will be enforced? DC doesn’t enforce laws regarding traffic, pot smoking, illegal construction, jaywalking, or littering. What about the curfew law makes it different? Not to mention it’s been on the books for decades and never enforced.

    • wdc

      My thoughts exactly. I didn’t even know DC had a curfew.

    • Anonamom

      I remember when this was initially enforced, back in the day when I, as a young girl of 17 ran the wild streets of Glover Park scoring underage drinks at various unsavory establishments. It was a HUGE to do. You would have thought that they were going to be rounding up teenagers by the dozens. Did this ever happen? No. I’m sure it is used to break up large groups, and may be added on to kids getting in trouble for other things, but it’s definitely not that big of a deal.

      • TX2DC

        My hometown in Texas also had a curfew when I was a teen (mid-late 90s). I had a few friends that were actually rounded up by the police for breaking curfew. The police would take them home to their parents, and maybe issue a citation or fine. I never got caught – too slick. :-)

      • sarahval


      • GBinCH

        This is one of those laws that the police won’t enforce regularly or consistently, but does give them a tool to use at their discretion. Breaking up big groups is definitely one situations where I could see this coming into play. However, it may also be used to stop and ID kids, or people who look young, by the police who otherwise don’t have reason to stop someone.

        • anonannoyed

          Using it at their discretion just turns it into a sanctioned for of discrimination, though, doesn’t it? Which type of kids generally look more “rowdy”?

          • GBinCH

            That was my thinking exactly. I’m sure there will be guidelines, but I imagine officers will be allowed to make judgment calls in the moment too.
            Where I see this being abused is stopping and ID’ing teenagers who are older than 17 because they look “rowdy,” etc. Telling someone they look underage and requesting to see an ID, just because it’s late at night, is a great way to collect information.

          • petworthian

            “Which type of kids generally look more “rowdy”?”
            it’s probably the kind that are dealing drugs.

          • Philippe Lecheval

            You can’t look rowdy without actually being rowdy.

    • T W

      As someone who has actually been a teenager in DC I can tell you that it is very much enforced. I have on two occasions been nearly arrested in Gallery Place for sitting on the Portrait Gallery steps back in high school. Also as a now 25 year old who looks 16, I have been asked to show my ID at IHOP in Columbia Height more than once (I can’t seem to stay away from pancakes when I’m drunk).

      If you were a black teenager in DC, you would know that curfew exist and has for a while now.

      • LocalTalent

        Co-signing on this as a 26 year old black woman who grew up here. As teens, my friends and I got kicked off the portrait gallery steps, kicked off the Gallery Place sidewalk, had to show our IDs at random on sidewalks, at McDonalds, at movie theaters, etc. to cops on a power trip… Laws like this one criminalize youth for having the audacity to exist in public.

    • ah

      Yeah, of course it will be enforced. Selectively. Against kids the cops think are troublemakers (i.e., running drugs), and will justify stop and frisks.

      • W

        sounds good to me

  • That One Guy

    This sort of reminds me of those old commercials where the message was like: It’s 10:00 p.m.Do you know where your children are?

    • Simpsons did it

      And the Simpsons joke where Homer responded to the man on TV who asked that, “I told you last night! No!”

      • DCReggae


  • anonannoyed

    UGH. Can we stop treating all young people like they are inherently criminal?

    • FridayGirl

      Do you really think high schoolers should be roaming around the city at 2am though? That’s not good for them either.

      • anonannoyed

        Well, there are lots of things I think people shouldn’t do that aren’t illegal. But, I was out after midnight plenty as a teen and I wasn’t much of a trouble maker.

        • Anony

          The majority are so I am happy if they enforce it. Most of the time I was out late while a teenager I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.

          • anon101

            +1 to “Most of the time I was out late while a teenager I was doing something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.”

            If I were a parent I’d want my kids in by midnight, especially when they’re more likely to be the *victims* of crime late at night.

          • anonannoyed

            @Anony “Most are” is exactly my issue. My annoyance is that we blanketly treat all young people like criminals. You responded by doing just that?

            @anon101 That’s a decision parents have every right to make. My issue is with the government making it for them.

            17-year-olds are not little children. They can have jobs, responsibilities, interests. The curfew has an exception for travelling to/from work but with no stops — so a 17 year old leaving his bus boy shift at 12:30am can’t stop for a soda at 7/11? Teen girls can’t head to a Katy Perry concert if they won’t be home (not out of the concert, but home–not on the metro, not waiting for a bus) by midnight? It’s a ridiculous blanket rule that if applied to people one year older would be clearly unconstitutional.

          • jdre

            @anonannoyed In places I’ve lived that had curfews, there was a LOT of “at the officers’ discretion” applied to these things. If there was a big event like a concert, and officers saw large crowds on their way home, they might let it slide. If the same crowd, or part of that crowd, took 2 hours to “make their way home” (i.e., stayed in the same neighborhood), they might start enforcing.

            Naturally, officer discretion leaves a lot of wiggle-room for it to be abused or applied inequitably.

          • anonannoyed

            @jdre Yea, officer discretion doesn’t make me feel better about this as I’m sure all it does is turn this into a tool for discrimination.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I don’t know about the majority. I was out after midnight a lot as a teen. If you go to a movie at 10, you are not getting home until after midnight. That said, where I grew up (MA), people under 18 could not legally drive after midnight (until 5 or 6 am), so it had the effect of a state-wide curfew for non-urban places. Everyone did it anyway, but it existed.

          • anon101

            @anonannoyed seems like they drew the line at children who are minors because there’s a precedent for restrictions on minors.

          • anonannoyed

            I’m aware of that precedent. I just don’t agree with it.

          • FridayGirl

            anonannoyed – I agree with your disagreement especially about the 17 year old busboy. I’m not sure what the legal age to work is in DC (I know in other places I’ve lived it was 16) so I think they’re mostly trying to encompass those 12-15 year olds who really are not adults and really should not be out after midnight without an adult. I don’t believe that all kids are troublemakers (and actually, I’ve worked with some true troublemakers that have been just awesome kids without guidance). Perhaps lowering the age to the minimum legal working age might be a good compromise?
            It just irks me that people in DC complain about crime and then complain when police say they’re going to put the breaks on an age group that contributes to that crime. I don’t support profiling, but police can’t read minds either.

          • Anony

            @anonannoyed, I am not proposing treating ALL young people as criminals any more than you are stating that the majority that are out past midnight are having good wholesome fun and parents shouldn’t have them home or enforce any discipline. Cut the crap and be real

  • Anonamom

    I thought this curfew has been around for sometime? I remember it being put into affect when I was kid.

    • Indeed! “The District began enforcing the law again in the fall of 1999.”

      • Anonamom

        Ha! I should read all the way next time ;)

      • ah

        That’s what you get for posting this in 2016.

  • W

    Darn I was hoping the curfew would be for everyone under 24 ;)

    • FridayGirl

      Hahahaha….. good one.

    • jdre

      Nice :)

    • anon

      No no no, the curfew wouldn’t *ban* people under 24 from being out, but the police will inspect their IDs extra carefully.

  • TWDC

    “Exercise their First Amendment rights protected by the US Constitution, including the free exercise of speech, religion, and right of assembly”

    Regardless of the merits of the law itself (which seems somewhat problematic at best and completely racist at worst), this seems to pretty much undermine its whole purpose. Any group of kids loitering about could just claim they were assembling to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, and thus be exempt.

    • anon101

      Curfews for minors aren’t uncommon in many cities. I remember seeing 10:00pm curfew warnings every night on local tv back in the 80s (different city too).

      • jdre

        Yep; anecdotally, I’ve lived in 9 states, and this is quite common. Being common doesn’t mean I agree with it on a strict rights/legal sense, but usually it’s accepted that minors walking around at 2am aren’t likely to be up to much good; and it can help identify cases of neglect (or, more frequently, help identify the children of parents who work midnight shifts).

    • Anon

      I think you are giving today “utes” too much credit…

  • anon6

    The curfew law has been around forever; this is nothing new. You’ll sometimes see MPD curfew enforcement vans around the city doing just that: enforcing the curfew.

  • Anony


  • CapHillNative

    I grew up with this law and I remember it being used mostly when I was running around causing mischief at Union Station (which was essentially my neighborhood mall). We weren’t ever doing anything against the law really (just messing with tourist) but we were definitely a nuisance. If my child was running around causing a nuisance I would want the police to be able to send them home (when I thought they were just hanging at a friends) … its safer for everyone. But I’m not sure of the punishment/enforcement beyond that.

    • anon

      I think in general you should be responsible for making sure your children are actually at their friend’s homes, rather than relying on the police to arrest them and you for a criminal violation. I would think you would want to avoid that, too. The point of curfew laws isn’t for the police to send your children home, it is to arrest them.

      • jdre

        It’s not an arrest-able offense, for the guardian or the minor.

      • CapHIllNative

        I’m guessing you were born a fully responsible adult human. 1. I actually have 0 children. 2. Don’t sitcoms frequently feature little suburban kids being escorted home with a wag of the finger and a shake of the head… doesn’t this really happen while “joyriding” playing baseball with mailboxes, and setting fire to trashcans? I wouldn’t know, I’m a city kid who caught the metro and hung out at museums and train stations for fun instead of driving drunk and destroying property. 3. You clearly live in alternate reality where all kids tell their parents the truth about where they are 100% of the time and never find themselves making poor decisions. Good for you.

  • jdre

    Please change it to 2:30 in the afternoon.

    • Anony


  • Trinidaddy

    Yeah you’re not supposed to have guns on the street either. Good luck with enforcing all these laws, especially with a large segment of the population who gives exactly 0 f’s.

  • BW

    Uhh, Movie theater and common area of an apartment building? That’s terrible.

    • navyard

      I think the need for these types of laws came from kids who started talking back to authority: “you can’t make us”, etc. And even more so when parents started accepting their children’s awful behavior as “just kids”. The cops NEED to have something on their side when there is a legit reason for breaking up a group of rowdy teens. I’m sure they don’t WANT to enforce it, but we all do better when there is at least the semblance of law and order. Imagine if when the cops rolled up, kids didn’t run. Then we would all see that there really is NO authority and civilization as we know it would break down.
      Rollin’ in, runnin’ out. As it should be!

      • anon

        Curfew laws are over 1000 years old, and used to apply to all the populace. Now we only apply them to juveniles – not to protect them, but to protect others from juvenile crimes.

  • nycnate

    I think we need much more than a curfew.

    On July 11, 2013, President Obama nominated William W. Nooter to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
    A year later, this judge let a rapist loose.
    D.C. Magistrate Judge William Nooter denied a prosecutor’s request to hold Pitt and released him back into the community Oct. 2, despite a written warning about the risks from the Pretrial Services Agency.


  • anon

    Being on a sidewalk is allowed after curfew hours, but being in an apartment hallway isn’t?

    • anonannoyed

      It’s almost like this law is targeting a specific type of youth and making exceptions for other types of youth.

    • anon

      Yeah, noticed that, too. The sidewalk exception would seem to apply to those who live in homes without common hallways. Because you can’t get to the sidewalk without going through common areas in multifamily buildings.

    • ah

      That one makes no sense – if all those other things are illegal, why would standing on the sidewalk in front of your house be okay (not saying the others aren’t also okay . . . )?

    • jdre

      I’d be curious how law enforcement enters private property (an apartment building) to enforce this. Seems like this should be up to the apartment management to handle — and they could make their own rules regarding use of common areas, in the lease, without the need for a DC law.

      • Anonymous

        Probably if someone calls them to complain. I can’t think of any other way the police would know that kids were hanging out in the hallway. Apartment management can make up whatever rules they want but they’re not the ones who get called when the young’uns are making a ruckus in the corridor at 3am.

  • Danielle Feuillan

    As the mom of a teenager, I love this law. It means I don’t have to be the bad guy.

  • 9thStreetNW

    100% support this. But not sure this is really going to change anything.

    • HaileUnlikely

      No reason to expect it to change anything – it has been in effect since 1995.

      • Enforced since ’99 :)

      • General Grant Circle

        Yeah in all my life growing up in the district I only had 1 experience with it (detailed below) and only heard about it being enforced a few other times. There were exceptions like if you were going to or coming from a school or religious event, so with sports gear in the back you just say you had a late _____ game and were driving home

  • General Grant Circle

    Growing up in the district we were only ever busted for curfew once – but we were over 17. They tried to get us picking up late night pizza. My friend’s little sister was under 15 though so she had to get taken back. No pizza for her!

    • ah

      Come on – no one covered for her by saying you were on an errand at the direction of her parents?

  • Amelia

    Youth curfews are always a tool for police to selectively harass minority kids.

    When this was implemented in Austin in the ’90s, my parents and assorted friends went to speak against it at a city council meeting. Afterwards, my parents’ (white) friend was assured by a city council member that the curfew wasn’t for “her” (parents’ friend’s) kids.


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