The Texas curfew law allows cities to set a curfew for minors under a certain age. In most cities, such as Houston, the age is 17. In some cities, such as Lubbock, the age is 16. Some cities, such as Austin, do not have any curfew. Curfews differ considerably. A city establishes a curfew by municipal ordinance. A minor in violation of a curfew can be cited or detained. The minor’s parents may be required to respond and take custody of him.
Examples of Texas Curfew Laws
Houston’s curfew law does not allow a minor under the age of 17 to be in a public place from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday night through Thursday night, 12 a.m. until 6 a.m. Friday morning and Saturday morning, and 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Dallas’ curfew law does not allow a minor under the age of 17 to be in a public place from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. Sunday night through Thursday night, 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m. Saturday morning and Sunday morning, and 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Leander does not allow a minor under the age of 17 to be in a public place from 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 1:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning and Sunday morning.
Exemptions to the Curfew
Generally, a minor is exempted from the curfew if she is accompanied by a parent or guardian or is with an adult designated by her parent or guardian. There are numerous other exemptions. These include engagement in an employment activity, presence in attendance with an official school, religious or other recreational activity supervised by adults and sponsored by the city, and exercise of First Amendment rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as participation in a city-authorized protest. Before taking enforcement action, a police officer shall ask the minor’s age and reason for being in the public place.
Violation of Curfew Merits a Citation
A minor in violation of the curfew may be issued a citation that requires his appearance in municipal court. When he makes a court appearance, his parent or guardian must also attend. If the juvenile is found guilty, the municipal court judge may impose a fine, probation or community service. The ordinance establishes the maximum amount of the fine. This typically ranges between $50 and $500.
A parent or guardian who allowed his child to violate the curfew may be detained, issued a citation and found guilty. This adult may be required to pay a fine, serve probation or perform community service.
Distinguishing Offenses by Time
A party who violates the ordinance is guilty of a separate offense for each day or part of a day during which a violation is committed, continued or permitted. This means that if a minor is out at 3 a.m. on a Friday and 5 a.m. the following Saturday, he can be fined separately for two separate acts of curfew violation. A municipal court will waive original jurisdiction over a minor who violates the curfew when the minor is charged with an offense other than perjury, a traffic offense, a misdemeanor punishable by fine only or violation of a penal ordinance of a political subdivision. The court will then refer the minor to juvenile court.
Controversy Over Curfews
Several cities, including Waco and San Antonio, have eliminated their curfew ordinances. There is concern that curfew ordinances disproportionately impact minors who are members of minority groups. A number of cities, including Dallas and Houston, have significantly amended their ordinances to provide verbal warnings to juveniles.
- Houston Police Department: Juvenile Curfew Ordinance
- City of Leander, Texas: Youth Curfew
- The Woodlands Township, Texas, Neighborhood Watch: Curfew Laws
- Dallas Police Department: Curfew Hours for Minors
- Texas Family Code, Title 3, Juvenile Justice Code, Section 51: General Provisions
- City of Lubbock, Texas: Juvenile Curfew
- CBS Austin: State Law Aims to Prohibit City, County Curfew for Minors
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.