Teen Curfew Abolished

On December 4th, the Roselle Park governing body abolished a law which placed a curfew on juveniles.

The repeal came after council was sent a letter by John Paff, a public rights advocate and member of both the New Jersey Libertarian Party as well as the New Jersey Foundation for Open Government (NJFOG)*, late August asking for a review of the borough ordinance due to concerns to it being unconstitutional. In response, the municipality re-worded their ordinance to avoid any possible issues with its constitutionality and were prepared to pass an amended ordinance in September. The only problem was that the Wanaque law they copied was itself abolished that same month for being unconstitutional.

Wanaque was successfully sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of Linda Richardson and her daughter Shaina Harris, a then 17-year-old who was cited for walking to a local Burger King after curfew even though she had permission from her mother to do so. The court in their decision, according to the ACLU, recognized there was a “strong constitutional presumption in favor of parental authority over government authority.” In addition to paying over $50,000 in legal fees, part of the settlement stipulated that the municipality was to repeal the very law that Roselle Park was going to adopt.

In February of 2010, the curfew was voted on and approved by current Fifth Ward Councilman Michael Yakubov, incoming Mayor Carl Hokanson, as well as outgoing Mayor Joseph Accardi, who was Second Ward Council then. The law stood for years even though, according to First Ward Councilman Andrew Casais, the Roselle Park Police Department had not utilized it in quite some time since there are other loitering laws that can universally be employed to anyone, regardless of age. The law had made it legal for an officer to stop someone who just looked like they were underage and ask for identification to prove they are an adult, even if that person was walking down the block to their car from their house because they forgot something or were even walking their dog. The other issue that arose was if the person was an adult but had no identification, which is not required by law, they could be cited or even held in custody.

In repealing the almost five-year law, the municipality avoids any potential lawsuits from those discriminated against based on their age.