There is no state-wide curfew law for teens in Pennsylvania. Instead, individual municipalities within the state establish their own laws regarding unaccompanied minors being out on public streets or in certain areas of a city between specific hours. According to the 2006 “Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook,” about 70 percent of the municipalities in Pennsylvania have a juvenile curfew law in place.
Curfew Law Variations
The municipalities across Pennsylvania do not have a standard curfew law in place, and the laws vary by city. In Harrisburg, for example, youth and children under the age of 18 are not allowed to be out between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday during the school year, and from midnight to 6 a.m. on the weekends and during summer break. In Sinking Spring and Dover, curfew is from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. every day. In Philadelphia, curfew laws vary by age. During the school year, curfew begins for youth and children under the age of 13 at 8 p.m. Curfew begins at 9 p.m. for youth between the ages of 14 and 15, and at 10 p.m. for those who are 16 and 17. During the summer, curfew times start an hour later for children and youth in Philadelphia. Municipalities generally do not apply curfew laws to minors who are accompanied by a parent or guardian, teens who are employed or juveniles who are running an errand for a parent or guardian.
Reasons for Curfew Laws
Pennsylvania municipalities, according to the “Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook,” tend to site common reasons for enacting curfew legislation. Reasons include enhancing the welfare and safety of a community by reducing juvenile crime, reducing crimes committed against minors, promoting a positive relationship between parents and their children and promoting adult supervision. The website for the city of Pittsburg states that one of the intents behind its curfew law is to help ensure that youth and children get an adequate amount of sleep at night.
Consequences for Breaking Curfew Laws
Like curfew laws, the consequences for breaking them vary by municipality. In Sinking Spring, a violation can result in a fine of $50 to $300. In Lancaster, the fine for a first offense is $50, $100 to $150 for the second offense and $150 to $200 for the third offense. After the fourth offense, the consequences are a $200 to $300 fine, up to 90 days in jail for a parent or guardian and/or a referral to the juvenile court system for the minor in question. In Pittsburg, a curfew violation may result in a fine of up to $300, court-ordered parenting classes for adults, court-ordered community service for the minor in question and/or court-ordered counseling for the young person. According to Dover legislation, the parent, guardian or caretaker of a minor could face a fine of up to $600 and a jail term of up to 30 days if the minor in question breaks the curfew law. The municipality's city hall or police department can provide information regarding the curfew laws and related penalties for a specific municipality.
Curfew Laws and the Constitution
The curfew laws established by Pennsylvania municipalities may infringe on the fundamental constitutional rights of youth and children, according to the “Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook.” A curfew law may impact a young person’s First Amendment right to freedom of speech, expression and association if there aren’t any exceptions in the legislation for protected types of speech, like religious or political activities. Curfew laws may impact a parent’s Ninth Amendment right to raise a child autonomously and without unnecessary interference, particularly if there isn’t an exception for a minor who is running an errand or conducting business for a responsible parent or guardian. According to the “Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook,” Pennsylvania courts ruled that the 14th Amendment, the right to due process and equal protection, is a right that’s extended to juveniles. Consequently, an individual who is against a curfew law may argue that the legislation infringes upon a minor’s right to move freely under the Equal Protection and Citizenship Clauses of the 14th Amendment, regardless of age.
- Pennsylvania Local Government Commission: Pennsylvania Legislator’s Municipal Deskbook, Juvenile Curfews
- The Cost of Curfew Violations: ‘The Judicial Notice’ with Judge Jessica Brewbaker
- Sinking Spring Police: Curfew
- Keystate Publishers, Inc.: Chapter 84, Curfew
- Philadelphia Police Department: Up to Date Information for the City of Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter Signs Curfew Legislation
- City of Pittsburgh: Chapter 604: Curfew
- City of Lancaster, PA: Chapter 121: Curfew
- Boston University Law Review: Freedom of Movement at a Standstill?
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