Local and state governments issue curfews that limit a person's time in public areas for a variety of reasons. Georgia lawmakers sometimes apply a curfew for minors under 18 in order to prevent juvenile crime and to protect them. Adult residents and businesses may also have curfew restrictions in times of emergency, such as a public health crisis or a natural disaster.
Prohibited places during curfew hours can include public roadways, restaurants, parks, playgrounds, public buildings and shopping centers. Penalties for violating curfew laws range from warnings to fines or even jail time, if the person breaking the law is a repeat offender.
Mandatory Curfew Ordinances
Mandatory curfews ban people of all ages from being in a public place at specific times. They can also require a business to close during certain hours. State and local municipalities can enforce curfews only on public property; people under curfew requirements can still freely use yards, decks, porches, patios and driveways on private property.
Some types of curfews include:
- Emergency Curfews: Typically temporary and enforced by state or local governments during a natural disaster, ongoing civil disturbance or a public health crisis.
- Juvenile Curfews: State and local authorities put curfews in place to prevent people below a certain age from being in public or in a business during a specific time. The Georgia Department of Driver Services also has a driving curfew for minor drivers.
- Business Curfews: State and local governments can place curfews on businesses in times of crisis. For example, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, businesses around the U.S. shut down, altered their hours or stopped in-person service in accordance with the law.
Curfew laws often require individuals not to leave their homes unless it's an emergency or for travel to and from work. People who break the law by violating an emergency curfew can face misdemeanor charges, which can carry penalties of fines, jail time or both.
Juvenile Curfews in Georgia
The specifics of teen curfew laws vary by municipality in Georgia. For example, Atlanta minors under 16 years of age cannot be out in public after 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. Albany's Code of Ordinance states juveniles under 18 must not be in public, unless they are under adult supervision, from 11 p.m to 6 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight to 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Athens-Clark County makes it illegal for minors under 18 to be in a public place unsupervised from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Sundays through Thursdays, however curfew begins an hour later on Fridays and Saturdays. In South Fulton County's East Point, curfew hours for minors changed after a shooting in the area – as of February 2021, teens under 17 can no longer be out under any circumstances after 9 p.m.
Juvenile Curfew Exemptions
Juvenile curfew laws do have exemptions. For example, minors are exempt when:
- Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
- Running errands for parents or legal guardians.
- When going to and from school or work.
- Taking part in an activity with constitutional protection.
- Attending school or taking part in religious or civic activity.
- Municipal ordinances allow minors to stay on the sidewalk connected to their home or a neighbor's property.
Juvenile Curfew Penalties
Curfew violations in Georgia carry penalties that vary depending on the county or municipality. They are generally light, like a fine or a warning, however, repeated violations can come with more severe punishment. And sometimes, the parent or legal guardian of a minor who breaks curfew will also face penalties.
Penalties for curfew violations include:
- Warning: When a juvenile has never had a violation, law enforcement will sometimes issue a verbal or written warning to the offender.
- Detention: Law enforcement may detain repeat curfew offenders in a juvenile center or police station until their parent or guardian comes to take them home. Occasionally, law enforcement will take the offender home and speak to their parents.
- Fines: The minor or their guardian will typically pay fines ranging from $50 to $250.
- Community service: A court can also require offenders or their guardians to serve community service or take an education course.
- Jail: If the minor is a repeat offender, their guardian may face jail time, and the juvenile may face detention in a youth home.
Georgia Minor Driving Law and Curfew
The goal of Georgia's Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA) is to ensure safe roads for all drivers. Teens are the largest demographic in the state involved in accidents. The law attempts to change how they earn and maintain their driving privileges while allowing them to get experience behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
When a minor aged 15 to 18 begins driving in Georgia, they get a graduated license. They move on to a less restrictive step until they earn an unrestricted license.
The steps are as follows:
Step 1: A Class CP permit is an instructional permit available to drivers 15 years old and older after passing a written test. A person who is 21 and older with a Class C license must accompany the minor when they drive. This passenger should be capable of controlling the vehicle when necessary.
Step 2: The Georgia DMV issues a Class D, or provisional, license to drivers aged 16 and 17. They must have a Class CP permit for at least one year and one day, have no traffic violations and pass a road test. They must also finish a minimum of 40 hours of supervised driving with six hours at night and a driver's education class, or wait until they are 17 to get a license.
Step 3: When the minor driver turns 18, they are eligible for a Class C license, provided there are no major traffic convictions on their record for at least 12 months. If they do not upgrade their license to a Class C, they will continue to drive under Class D restrictions no matter how old they are.
TADRA's Curfew and Penalties
Class D drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 cannot:
- Drive between midnight and 6 a.m. There are no exemptions to this curfew.
- Drive on Georgia's public highways, streets, or roads with passengers other than their immediate family in the first six months of having a Class D license.
- Drive on Georgia's public highways, streets or roads with more than three passengers under 21 other than their immediate family in the second six months of having a Class D license.
A driver with a Class D license who violates curfew will see their license suspended. This suspension will also delay or prevent them from graduating to an unrestricted license.
- City of Atlanta: Sec. 106-227. - Curfew—Authorized.
- Albany, Georgia Code of Ordinances: Sec. 38-7. - Curfew for minors—During evening hours.
- Athens-Clark County, GA: Sec. 3-16-3. - Minors prohibited from being upon streets and other public places at certain evening hours; exceptions.
- WSBTV: Metro Atlanta city sets new curfew rules for teens after shooting
- Georgia Department of Driver's Services: Teenage & Adult Driver Responsibility Act
- Find Law: What Are Curfew Laws?
- NOLO/Criminal Defense Lawyer: Juvenile Curfew Laws
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.