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Mom & Teen Challenge Curfew Ordinance

PATERSON, N.J. (CN) - A mother and daughter sued their suburban town, claiming its juvenile curfew is unconstitutional.

Linda Richardson and her 17-year-old daughter Shaina Harris sued the Borough of Wanaque in Passaic County Court.

Wanaque, pop. 12,200, is a far west exurb of New York City.

Its Juvenile Curfew Act imposes fines and possible arrest for people under 18 caught in a public place after 10 p.m. on any day of the week.

The mother and daughter claim the law violates their right "to peaceful use of public areas, to travel and to associate."

Wanaque enacted its ordinance in 2005.

"The Curfew Ordinance makes it unlawful for all minors under 18 years of age 'to remain in or upon any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the Borough' between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. - including the large majority of minors who have no criminal record or history of disciplinary problems, who have entirely legitimate and innocent reasons for being out, and even those who have permission from their parents or guardians to be out unless they meet certain limited and vague exceptions," the complaint states.

Violations are punishable by "fines of up to $1,000 and community services of up to 50 hours," and parents may be punished along with their children.

The law gives police the right to detain the minors despite "New Jersey statutes [which] prescribe the circumstances under which detainment is permissible"; and "violation of the Curfew Ordinance is not among these circumstances," according to the complaint.

They says the law defines public places over-broadly: "any place to which the public or a substantial group of the public has access, including, but not limited to, a public street, road, thoroughfare, sidewalk, bridge, alley, plaza, park, recreation or shopping area, public transportation facility, vehicle used for public transportation, parking lot or any other public building, structure or area."

Shaina Harris was 16 years old in September 2012 when she was busted. That night, she walked to a Burger King to pick up a milk shake at around 11 p.m., "with her parents' permission." The Burger King "is in full view of [her] home and no more than 200 feet from the home."

However, "On her short walk home, at approximately 11:30 p.m., Harris was stopped by Sergeant Calabro of the Wanaque Police Department. According to the police report, Harris was stopped because of the 'time of night and she appeared to be a juvenile, which would be a violation of the Juvenile Curfew Act.' During the ensuing conversation, Calabro threatened to detain Harris and bring her to the Wanaque Police Station where she would be held until a parent or guardian came to pick her up. Harris was able to contact her stepfather who came to pick her up. Harris was issued a summons and complaint charging her for violation the Curfew Ordinance."

Harris and her mother say, "there are a number of legitimate reasons for Harris to travel and/or visit public areas between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. including, but not limited to, errands and social gatherings."

Harris says she "believes she should have the freedom to engage in age-appropriate activities regardless of whether those activities require public travel after 10:00 p.m."

Her mom says she "wishes to continue to allow Harris to exercise the freedom and responsibility that she, as her parent, has decided is appropriate." But, she says, if she "pursues her beliefs about what is best for her child, she will risk prosecution under the Curfew Ordinance."

They seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and costs.

They are represented by Edward Kiel with Cole, Schot, Meisel, Forman & Leonard of Hackensack, and the ACLU in Newark.

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