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Attorney: No Action Needed On Township’s Curfew Ordinance

9-23-14 meeting5

Township attorney Lou Rainone said the township does not have to take any action on its curfew ordinance.

Although at least one other town has repealed a similar ordinance, the Township Council doesn’t need to take any action on its curfew ordinance, the governing body was told Sept. 23.

Curfews have come under fire from the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union as being unconstitutional.

The township’s ordinance – which generally prohibits children under 18 years of age from being outside between 11:59 p.m. and 6 a.m. – was re-written to conform to a state statute regarding curfew ordinances, township attorney Lou Rainone told the council at its meeting.

“As of right now, I don’t think there’s any need for us to take any action,” he said. “My impression is that it’s rarely invoked to the extent that we issue summonses.”

Rainone said the ordinance is used more as a “tool to keep good order.”

The issue was brought to the council by township resident John Paff, an open government activist and head of the New Jersey Libertarian Party’s Open Government Advocacy Project. Paff asked the township to review its ordinance shortly after Wanaque repealed its ordinance after a court challenge by NJ ACLU.

Wanaque’s ordinance, which is similar to the township’s, was unconstitutional, the ACLU said in a legal brief, because it was too vague and treated all minors as potential lawbreakers.

The question of whether the law is constitutional is all that matters, Paff said in an emailed statement.

“Unconstitutional ordinances should be repealed regardless of  the frequency or manner of enforcement,” he wrote. “The ordinance is often enforced by official threat of a summons.”

Rainone said he brought the ordinance to Chief of Police Lawrence Roberts for his review, but has not yet been able to talk to him about it.

“I plan to do so in the near future,” he said.

The township’s ordinance, written in 1994 and amended as late as 1999, only allows police to issue curfew violations summonses if the officer believes a crime has been committed. The ordinance also holds parents liable for their children’s violation of the ordinance.

In an emailed statement, Roberts said, “As a department we have no documented cases in our CAD system of the enforcement of this ordinance over the past year. I believe many of these incidents have been curtailed by the graduated drivers license and the restrictions that it places upon young drivers.”

Roberts said the department will “determine how to proceed once we receive guidance” from the township attorney.

 

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