Are Curfew Laws and Regulations Constitutional? It depends. 1st Amd: Freedom of Speech and Assembly.

In response to a widespread rioting and other civil disorder during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the City of Long Beach issued a curfew regulation.

The Long Beach curfew regulation, effective April 30, 1992, reads: “Curfew. 1. No person shall be upon the public streets, avenues, alleys, parks, ways or any other public place or upon unimproved private real property between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am within the City of Long Beach: … 4. The law enforcement forces of this City, along with other law enforcement authorities cooperating with the City are hereby authorized and charged, to the extent provided by law with the responsibility of enforcing this curfew, and are further authorized to arrest such persons as do not obey this curfew after due notice, oral or written, has been given to said persons.” In re Juan C., 28 Cal. App. 4th 1093, 1097, 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 919 (1994).

The curfew regulation was not unconstitutionally overbroad. The regulation did not offend constitutional precepts, because its restrictions were reasonably related to a compelling government interest. It limited outdoor activities in public places during specified hours only so long as an emergency existed, and there was no dispute as to the existence of a bona fide emergency. The regulation was not directed at any particular class or group, and regulated conduct rather than the content of speech. It exempted law enforcement, firefighters, and authorized media representatives, and permitted the arrest of only those who refused to obey the curfew even after being given oral or written notice. Inasmuch as the defendant was not exempt from the regulation, and refused to obey it after being given due notice and an opportunity to comply, he was properly accused of, and punished for, violating the curfew. The court further held that the regulation was not so vague as to encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. The regulation did not vest discretion in the police to decide which persons to stop, because it applied, on its face, to all persons in public places, save for those whose presence was deemed indispensable to either quelling or reporting on the emergency. By specifying that “no person” was to be on public streets, rather than just those who were wandering about, or lacked a reason or identification, the regulation clearly informed the public and law enforcement of what constituted illegal conduct, and did not allow the police to stop people on a whim. Moreover, the *1094 regulation affected the entire city at a definite time, and did not single out any particular group or neighborhood to bear a more onerous burden than the rest of the city’s residents. (Opinion by Boren, P. J., with Gates and Fukuto, JJ., concurring.)

In re Juan C., 28 Cal. App. 4th 1093 (1994). The full text of the case can be found here:

Anton Vialtsin, Esq.
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