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City may enforce curfew

A recent state Supreme Court decision has Oak Harbor’s city attorney taking a second look at the city’s curfew law.

Although the high court’s ruling is a victory for kids who want to roam free at night, it may not have the kind of effect in Oak Harbor that teenagers will be happy about.

City Attorney Phil Bleyhl said Oak Harbor police haven’t enforced the city’s curfew law in the last two years because of concerns about the constitutionality of the code. He said the recent ruling may provide the kind of clarification the city needs to start enforcing the rule.

The Supreme Court struck down the city of Sumner’s curfew in a 5-4 decision. The case stems from the summer of 1999 when the Sumner police twice fined resident Thomas Walsh $50 because his 14-year-old son was at a convenience store late at night.

The problem with the ordinance, the justices found, hinged on an exemption that allowed juveniles to run errands for their parent. The Sumner police fined Walsh because they felt his son’s excuse for the errand didn’t square with his story.

The court found that the exemption was too vague. The chief justice wrote that the exemptions need to be written “in a way that the ordinance can be enforced in a nonarbitrary manner.”

Bleyhl said he doesn’t think the city’s curfew law has this kind of problem, but he plans on reviewing it. Oak Harbor’s curfew does allow a number of exemptions, such as when a kid is coming home from work or a school activity.

Bleyhl said the city’s curfew law was written in the early 1980s when Oak Harbor had the highest juvenile per capita population of any city in the state and there were few legitimate activities for teenagers at night. The purpose of the curfew, he said, is to prevent juvenile crime, especially malicious mischief.

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