Vanderbilt Law Review

Article Title

Scrutinizing Juvenile Curfews: Constitutional Standards & the Fundamental Rights of Juveniles & Parents


Brant K. Brown


Not surprisingly, juvenile curfew laws can elicit two opposing viewpoints. The first viewpoint, exemplified by the quote above, is that juvenile curfew laws, in any form, infringe on individual rights and are rarely, if ever, constitutional. The imposition is borne not only by the juveniles subject to the curfew, but also by their parents. The second viewpoint is that juvenile curfews serve at least two very important state purposes: they deter juveniles from committing crimes and protect them from being the victims of crimes perpetrated at night.! This conflict of viewpoints illustrates the battle between the individual rights of juveniles and their parents and the interests of the state in deterring crime and protecting its citizens. Courts have differing views on how to approach and analyze the validity and constitutionality of juvenile curfews.' At the crux of this division among courts are the different standards of scrutiny applied by the courts when dealing with curfews. The Equal Protection Clause provides three possible standards for courts to use when deciding on the constitutionality of juvenile curfews: strict scrutiny, intermediate scrutiny, and rational basis review. As courts arrive at different conclusions as to which standard is appropriate in juvenile curfew cases, they likewise arrive at different, and often conflicting, holdings.'

This Note seeks to take a step back from the scholarship concerning juvenile curfews and analyze the possible standards of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause that are available to courts within the context of juvenile curfew laws and juvenile rights protected by the Equal Protection Clause. Instead of merely summarizing the decisions reached by courts on the issue' or attempting to find a "perfect" and foolproof way to draft a curfew law or ordinance,8 this Note starts from the premise that the standard of analysis a court chooses to employ is more important than the exact wording of the curfew in question. The conflicting results reached by courts are in large part due to the different standards utilized by the courts and the lack of a unified approach in dealing with juvenile curfews.