Many parents today remember a time when the 10 p.m. news began with a question for viewers: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your child is?”
It’s a good question when you consider what often happens at night: vandalism, underage drinking, drive-by shootings. That’s why more than 500 U.S. cities, including La Crosse, WI, have curfew laws on the books.
Curfew laws are ostensibly designed to prevent crime, though there’s no definitive research to demonstrate that they do so. Many believe their real value is in giving law enforcement officers the ability to stop and question teens about what they may be doing in the middle of the night. If teens don’t have a legitimate reason for being out and about, officers then can take some action to get kids home.
In any case, it is a law currently on the local books, and if you have children and want to avoid penalties, you need to understand it. You’ll find slight differences among municipalities in the region; here is how it works in La Crosse.
For ages 15 to 17, curfew begins at 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, it’s 12:30 a.m. During summer months (defined as June 1 through August 31), it’s 12:30 a.m. all week.
For ages 12 to 14, curfew begins at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday and Saturday, it’s 11 p.m. During the summer, curfew begins at 11 p.m. all week.
For ages 11 and under, curfew is at 10 p.m. at all times.
Exceptions are made in certain situations, including when kids are:
running an emergency errand for their parents;?
working or traveling home from work;
are returning home by the most direct route from another private home;
going to or from school activities;
are with a parent, guardian or other adult having legal custody.
If your child is found violating curfew laws, police will write a citation carrying a penalty of $101. To contest a citation or the fine in La Crosse, families go before the municipal court. The judge there has some discretion and may order community service in lieu of the fee.
In any case, when you consider the trouble that kids can encounter on the streets at night, whether through their own making or as innocent victims, adhering to curfew laws can give your child an added measure of safety—and you more peace of mind.
By La Crosse Attorney Cheryl Gill of Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For more information on curfew law in Wisconsin, contact Cheryl Gill at 608-784-5678.