October 14, 2010

Mobile City Council Reverses Itself, Passes Daytime Curfew

After voting down a proposed curfew ordinance on September 13, 2011, the Mobile City Council reversed itself and passed essentially the same ordinance at its meeting on October 4, 2011. The ordinance expands prior law that already included a nighttime curfew and creates a new daytime curfew during public school hours. Because of concern that it would result in police harassment of students whose instruction schedule was different from that of the public schools, home educators fought passage of this ordinance since it was first proposed by Mayor Sam Jones in July.

The daytime curfew is in effect from 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on weekdays during which the public schools are in session. It applies to minors who have not reached their 17th birthday or who have not been emancipated under Alabama law. It prohibits minors from being in a public place, which is defined as “any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access and includes, but is not limited to streets, highways and the common areas of school, hospitals, apartment houses, office buildings, transport facilities and shops.” A minor who is taught by a private tutor, enrolled in a church school, or exempt from attending school is not in violation of the ordinance if the minor is in a public place with the permission of his or her parent or guardian.

Unfortunately, a law enforcement officer is authorized under the ordinance to stop and question every person in public who appears to be a minor. Minors not able to adequately explain their presence in the public place may be arrested and transported to the Strickland Youth Center in Mobile, where juvenile offenders are detained.

Minors in violation of the daytime curfew are subject to a fine of $100 and other penalties that may be imposed by the juvenile court. Parents who permit their children to violate the ordinance may be fined $100 by the municipal court for the first offense. For subsequent offenses, parents may be fined $500 or imprisoned for up to six months, or both.

The daytime curfew goes into effect on January 1, 2012, and automatically expires on December 31, 2012, unless the city council extends it by passing another ordinance. The ordinance requests the mayor to report and make recommendations to the council on June 1 and November 1, 2012, regarding the effectiveness and continuing need for the curfew.