Buena Vista Township is considering repealing its curfew law, which prohibits anyone under 18 from being out in public between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless accompanied by an adult family member or guardian.
Good for Buena Vista. Township Committee should pass the ordinance repealing the curfew.
John Paff, of the New Jersey Libertarian Party, is on a mission to get N.J. towns to repeal curfew ordinances. The laws - he correctly says - punish people for what police think they might do. When towns are sued over their curfew laws, they invariably lose. And, says Paff, towns needlessly spend money to defend these laws in court.
Egg Harbor Township repealed its curfew after a judge ruled it was unconstitutional in 2012 - and after paying $10,000 in legal fees.
Just last week, the Passaic County borough of Wanaque repealed its curfew to settle a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. The ACLU was representing a 17-year-old girl who had walked to the Burger King across the street from her house - with her parents' permission - after 10 p.m.
Hamilton Township has also repealed its curfew - but why hasn't every town? Curfews are illegal. New Jersey courts have been throwing them out for years. They are simply a selectively enforced mechanism for bringing a criminal charge against young people who aren't doing anything wrong. As a 2004 Appellate Division ruling invalidating West New York's curfew noted, these laws "criminalize the innocent activities" of teenagers.
Yet, many towns - including Avalon, Pleasantville, Ventnor and Atlantic City - still have curfews.
Look, we sympathize - up to a point. Parental supervision of young people is often not what it should be these days. And it is true that young people hanging out on the streets at 2 a.m. are probably not there to discuss the latest book they read.
But young people have constitutional rights, too. If, in fact, there is a legitimate law-enforcement issue, police have a long list of criminal offenses they can charge someone with. But just being outside is not a criminal act - and the courts will not let a town make it a criminal act.
So Paff is right. Not only are curfews wrong. But towns are putting themselves - and taxpayers - at risk of incurring unnecessary legal fees by trying to enforce and defend them. Enough already.