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Know the Facts About DC’s Curfew Law
September 7, 1999




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Metropolitan Police
August 1999

The District of Columbia now has a curfew for persons under the age of 17. It is important for you and your family to know what the law says, how it is being enforced, and what alternative programs there are for young people.

What does the law say?
The Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 (DC Code 6-2181) states that persons under the age of 17 cannot remain in or on a street, park or other outdoor public place, in a vehicle or on the premises of any establishment within the District of Columbia during curfew hours, unless they are involved in certain "exempted" activities (see below).

What are the curfew hours?
During the months of July and August only:

  • Curfew hours are 12:01 am - 6:00 am, seven days a week

During all other months:

  • Curfew begins at 11:00 pm on Sunday through Thursday nights, and continues until 6:00 am the following day
  • Curfew hours are 12:01 am - 6:00 am on Saturday and Sunday (curfew on "Friday night" begins at 12:01 am Saturday; curfew "Saturday night" begins at 12:01 am Sunday)

How will the law be enforced?
Anyone under the age of 17 who violates curfew will be detained by the Metropolitan Police Department. Officers will attempt to take the juvenile home (or to the home of a relative or other responsible adult). If that is not possible, the juvenile will be held at the district police station. A parent, legal guardian or other responsible adult will be contacted to pick the child up immediately. If not picked up by 6:00 am, the juvenile will be handed over to the Child and Family Services Agency.

A parent or legal guardian of a juvenile under the age of 17 commits an offense if he or she knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows, the minor to violate the curfew law. Any adult who violates the Juvenile Curfew Act is subject to a fine not to exceed $500 or community service. A minor who violates curfew may be ordered to perform up to 25 hours of community service.

What activities are exempted from the law?
Persons under the age of 17 do not violate the law during curfew hours if they are:

  • Accompanied by a parent or guardian or any person age 21 or older
  • Completing an errand at the direction of a parent or guardian, without detour or stop
  • In a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel
  • Working or returning home from a job, without detour or stop Involved in an emergency
  • On a sidewalk that joins their residence or the residence of a next-door neighbor, if the neighbor did not complain to police
  • Attending an official school, religious or other recreational activity sponsored by the District of Columbia, a civic organization or other similar group that takes responsibility for the juvenile (this includes traveling to and from the activity)
  • Exercising their First Amendment rights protected by the U.S. Constitution, including the free exercise of speech, religion and right of assembly

Why is the curfew law being enforced now?
DC's curfew law was first passed in 1995 as a way to help protect the health and safety of both young people and our communities. Shortly after, the law was challenged in court, and enforcement was stopped until the court decided whether the law was constitutional. In June 1999, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found the law to be constitutional. The District is enforcing the law beginning in the fall of 1999.

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