The Brazil City Police Department wants to remind parents that the State of Indiana has a curfew law, and they are enforcing it.
Indiana's curfew law has been embroiled in legal battles during recent years, including one with the ACLU, but the General Assembly continually revises the law to make it constitutional. While there is an established state curfew, it is up to local city governments, municipalities and towns to enforce it.
"Only a few juveniles are spoiling it for the rest," Police Chief Terry Harrison said about recent inquiries about teenagers walking around the city in the early hours of the morning. "Some people don't like it, but enforcing the curfew cuts back on illegal activity."
Indiana Code 31-37-3-2 states that a law enforcement officer can write a citation and/or place in custody a minor child without a legal guardian present who is:
* 15 or younger in a public place between 11 p.m.-5 a.m. on any day of the week,
* 16 or 17 in a public place between 11 p.m.-5 a.m., Sunday through Friday, and
* 16 or 17 in a public place between 1-5 a.m., Saturday and Sunday.
The code states that the only legal defense for a minor to be out past the designated curfew is if they are participating in, going to or returning from gainful employment, attending a school sanctioned event, a religious or nonprofit event, or involved in an emergency situation.
While some people believe curfew laws infringe upon the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit, law enforcement officers believe it is a matter of safety.
"I know it's hard for kids, and sometimes parents, to understand that it's really for their safety. These are the hours when most criminal activity occurs, when drunk drivers are on the roads," Harrison said. "No one wants their children to stumble across someone that could do them harm, or even worse."
A parent will be contacted if their child is caught out past curfew. A parent will either receive a phone call, informing them to pick up their child at the police station, or in person when an officer brings a child home pending an appearance in juvenile court.
Harrison said the curfew is a way to have parents take responsibility for the actions of their children.
"The saddest thing for any officer is to take a child home and realize the parents haven't seen the child all day," he said. "They don't have a clue where their child has been, and sometimes they don't care."
Parental involvement is important in a child's life, especially during any legal action taken by the courts involving a child according to Clay County Prosecutor Lee Reberger.
"We have a high number of young people out at all times of the day and especially at night, which is a perfect time to get in trouble," Reberger said. "If a case involving a curfew violation reaches the courthouse, we will treat them on a case-by-case basis."
According to Reberger, punishment for a juvenile curfew violation could range from an informal probation adjustment with the juvenile probation department to the court determining the child a delinquent and their being sentenced to time in a juvenile detention facility.
"Juveniles who break curfew and do something else wrong will be treated more severally," Reberger said.