Kansas town adopts new curfew law

Thursday, July 22, 1999

Worried about constitutional problems with restricting youth activity, the Manhattan, Kan., City Commission has replaced its long-standing curfew law with a more First Amendment-friendly one.

A member of the American Civil Liberties Union praised the commission for moving quickly to change the law.

“As far as curfews go, the ordinance they adopted does protect First Amendment rights as much as possible,” said Eddie Lorenzo, legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. “I think they've adopted one of the better curfew ordinances in the country.”

Manhattan City Clerk Rich Doan said the commission approved the ordinance during its July 20 meeting as part of a multi-item consent agenda. The vote was 5-0.

The new curfew — which runs from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Monday through Friday and 1 to 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday — allows those under 18 who are involved in emergencies, employment, church, school or civic activities or who are exercising their First Amendment rights to be exempted from the regulations.

Doan said the city moved quickly to change the old ordinance after officials learned from the ACLU that the curfew had constitutional problems.

“The previous ordinance was absolutely horrible and made no exceptions for religious or public activity,” Lorenzo said.

The former law, in part, read: “The fact that a child, unaccompanied by parent, guardian, or other person having legal custody, is found upon any street, alley or public place after 12 p.m. or before 5 a.m. of the following day, shall be prima facie evidence that the child is there unlawfully and that no reasonable excuse exists therefore.”

That law, Lorenzo said, would have made it illegal for youngsters to participate in many religious services, political events or school functions without their parents.