Ruling prompts curfew law change

Breanne Gilpatrick

An Indiana court decision could provide Evanston teens with some new excuses to be out late at night.

The Administration and Public Works Committee on Monday night discussed an amendment to the city’s curfew ordinance that would allow people under the age of 17 to be out after curfew under certain conditions.Under Evanston’s current curfew law, minors cannot be out after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights or after 11 p.m. during the week.

The city began considering changes to the law after the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in January found the curfew laws in Indiana to be unconstitutional, said Kathleen Brenniman, assistant city lawyer. She said Evanston has recently refrained from issuing tickets under its current ordinance to avoid having it declared unconstitutional as well.

“The Indiana ordinance was similar to Evanston’s, where it simply prohibited people being out after a certain time,” Brenniman said after the meeting, “and that was found by the U.S. Court of Appeals to be unconstitutional because they obviously feel there are some legitimate reasons for people at any age to be out at that time.”

Under the new law, modeled after a Chicago curfew law, minors will be allowed to be out after curfew for reasons such as going on errands, exercising their First Amendment rights or attending an official school or religious function, Brenniman said.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said some minors could try to use the new curfew exceptions to avoid getting a ticket. For example, some teenagers could abuse the First Amendment exception, which would allow a minor to be out distributing pamphlets or campaigning.

“What if they’re not (campaigning)?” Rainey said. “What if they’re just on the corner after midnight and they’re 14 years old and they’ve been told they can’t be arrested if they are exercising their First Amendment rights?”

Alds. Gene Feldman (9th) and Edmund Moran (6th) had questions about the enforcement of the current law that they wanted answered before they discussed any changes.

“Before we vote,” Moran said, “I want to see what’s what.”

Feldman requested figures for the number of curfew tickets issued in Evanston before the Indiana court decision.

The committee will hold more discussion of the issue before the curfew law changes pass to the Evanston City Council for a final vote. The Administration and Public Works Committee next meets Aug. 16 at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

City Reporter Breanne Gilpatrick is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected]