City may enforce curfew
July 3, 2008 · Updated 2:37 PM
A recent state Supreme Court decision has Oak Harbors city attorney taking a second look at the citys curfew law.
Although the high courts 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 havent enforced the citys 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 Sumners 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 sons excuse for the errand didnt 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 doesnt think the citys curfew law has this kind of problem, but he plans on reviewing it. Oak Harbors curfew does allow a number of exemptions, such as when a kid is coming home from work or a school activity.
Bleyhl said the citys 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.