Be home by midnight! Many teenagers may consider this mandate from their parents as a flexible request, but the curfew laws of St. Louis city and county take it a little more seriously. If a minor is caught breaking curfew, it can mean significant consequences for both the child and his or her parents. “It’s a safety measure to try to keep minors safe from what may be going on late at night, as well as preventing them from participating in any of those activities,” says Growe Eisen Karlen attorney Teneil Kellerman.
The county curfew ordinance states that it is illegal for anyone younger than 17 to be in a public place without parental supervision between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays, and between midnight and 6 a.m. on weekends. The city ordinance is similar, but its curfew ends at 5 a.m. Not only is it illegal for minors to be out during those hours, but “it’s also unlawful for a parent or guardian to allow them to be out,” Kellerman notes.
If a child is caught violating curfew, it is up to the responding police officer’s discretion what steps to take. Often, the officers will simply notify the parents to come pick their child up. “I think the police feel out the support they have from the parents to deal with and correct the situation,” says Sindel, Sindel & Noble attorney Travis Noble.
However, if the support isn’t there, or the violation is in conjunction with another infringement, the police can issue a referral to juvenile court, where the case could result in required services or probation. With a first violation, the parents would be issued a written notice; for subsequent infractions, the penalty is more significant. “In the county, parents could be charged and fined from $5 to $100, while in the city, it is $100 to $500 and/or imprisonment of up to 90 days,” Kellerman explains. “They want to make sure the parents are supervising their children.”
There are exceptions to the rule, with the county allowing for emergencies or evening employment, while the city is more specific. According to Ord. 63784, city exemptions include returning from school- or citysponsored activities, as well as, “when juvenile is on the sidewalk of a place where such juvenile resides, or on the sidewalk of a next-door neighbor, not communicating an objection to the police.”
Although the curfew ordinances may seem simple and straight-to-the-point, confusion can surface among the 91 St. Louis county municipalities, which may each set their own version. Therefore, the rules may change from municipality to municipality, not just from county to city. “Each jurisdiction has some sort of wrinkle in their ordinances, and no one looks up those codes before driving through each area,” Noble says. “The type of penalty and court you’ll be dealing with depends on the jurisdiction and the officer’s discretion.”
Although breaking the curfew law is a minor ordinance violation, enforcing it helps to keep minors and the rest of the public safe at night. “There could be a situation where a business’ parking lot turns into the place-to-be, and 100 kids are hanging out there, and eventually nothing good is going to come of that,” Noble says. “If they’re not committing any other violation, the curfew law still allows the police to tell them to go home.”