Curfew Law & Legal Definition


A curfew is an official order to return home before a stated time. It may often be imposed by a government to maintain public order. Some jurisdictions impose curfews on minors. They enact curfew laws that keeps kids under the age of 18 off the streets and away from gangs, drugs and crime. Curfews, which apply to the nighttime hours, aren’t just there to keep the good kids from going bad, they are also there to keep the good kids from being hurt or becoming victims of crime.

Curfews have also been used to target certain groups in a discriminatory manner. For example, curfews were imposed on Japanese-American university students on the West Coast during World War II and African-Americans in many towns during the time of Jim Crow laws.

The following is an example of a city law governing curfews, with various time periods for ages ranges from 11-17:

"You are not allowed in a public place, a place open to the public, or on the street unless:

  • You are with a parent or guardian.
  • You are on your way directly home from work or a lawful adult sponsored and supervised activity.
  • You are responding to a life-threatening emergency at the direction of, or on behalf of a parent or guardian."