Should Montgomery County put a curfew on teens? Isiah Leggett discusses.

Sep 01, 2011

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett recently proposed putting a countywide curfew on teens 17 and under in response to an uptick in juvenile arrests. Chat with Leggett at 1:30 p.m. EST about this proposal. Ask him questions and tell him your opinions.

Related: Montgomery County debates merits of teen curfew

Hello.  I 'm happy to speak with you today.

I believe this is needed and I commend Mr. Leggett for acknowleging this. When would it become effective?

The date will be determined by the County's Council passage of the bill. However,  I want it as soon as possible.  The legislation usually would become effective 90 days after passage, unless stated otherwise.

I'm assuming that you would be against extending the curfew to all individuals, not just those under the age of 18. With that in mind, can you please explain the difference between a group of 17 year olds, and a group of 19 year olds. Are one group particularly more dangerous to others? How can you essentially strip the rights of someone who is 17 years and 355 days old to walk around public places? Is there something that happens at age 18 then that would make them not dangerous?

The law usually assumes that an 18 year old is considered an adult.  In our society, we make a number of assumptions about people under the age of 18:  voting, driving, smoking, drinking, military service etc.  It is not to suggest that someone over the age of 18 would be more or less responsible but these guidelines have become acceptable community norms within our society.

Mr Leggett - this proposal makes SO much sense, whether it's Silver Spring or Bethesda.  There is NO reason teens of this age should be out that late ANY night, and if their parents won't do the job, the county must.   This is a no brainer unless you are a JD/gang member.  These kids should ALL be sleeping at that hour so they can get up to go to school/work, or whatever.

Thank you for your comment.

What message are we sending young people when we say it's necessary to restrict their freedom because government can't otherwise deal with a problem?

The problem is not just the government's problem, but the entire community's problem.    The message is that we care about our kids, their safety, and the broader community's concern about irresponsible conduct.  This is a difficult balance, but I believe that providing a curfew is not an over reach by our government.

Hi, thanks for taking questions. Are you doing anything different from the DC curfew law? As a DC native, I can't say that the curfew law itself did anything to curb crime among teens, and I hope MoCo learns from our experiences during its implementation.

Ideally, Montgomery County would implement a curfew law that is identical to the District of Columbia and Prince George's County.  However, those two curfew laws are different from each other.  Unfortunately, the fact that there is a curfew in the District and in Prince George's County makes Montgomery County a location where large numbers of underaged juveniles can congregate without violating the law.

Mr. Leggett, thank you for taking the time to speak directly with us today. I'm concerned about how this proposed curfew would actually be enforced. Many teenagers look older than they are, while many young adults (well into their 20s and 30s) have a "youthful" appearance. How will potential violators be identified? Anyone who looks like a teenager? Those hanging out in large crowd disturbing people?

That is always a judgement that our law enforcement personnel are trained to make based on a variety of factors.  This is no different than when an officer responds to a situation where an underaged individual is driving, drinking or smoking.   Officers make decisions based on the totality of the circumstances, including appearance, identification, statements from witnesses, etc.

Obviously, there are exceptions for those teens that work late... however, what about the ones that work until a later hour? Why would they be restricted from socializing, whereas those that are not working (or are working earlier) are allowed too? Some movies don't get out until 1am or later in downtown Silver Spring.

There are a number of exceptions to the bill that I  hope you go online to review.  For attending late-night movies, the exception would cover those in the theater at the time the curfew begins,but  not individuals who attend movies that begin after the start of the curfew.

How will it be enforced? In Baltimore we have a city curfew and is doesn't work well. Groups of teens are disruptive but retreat to the nearest house when law enforcement arrives. Since the law allows older teens to be home without parent(s) present, officers have very little recourse to determine if someone *actually* lives there. So the teens wait for the officers to go away... Rinse. Repeat.

It is my expectation that our young people will obey the law as intended.  We will continue to monitor implementation to ensure compliance.  If we need to modify the bill to address some of the concerns of implementation we will address that later.  This bill is not a panacea for all of the concerns regarding underaged juveniles but would be a usefull tool for our police.

In the article, it states teens coming home from the movies won't get a citation. Why can't they all say they're going home from a movie then all the time?

There are ways that Police Officers can monitor and followup to determine if they are actually on their way home and have arrived home.  It also gives the Officer a tool to direct an underaged person to go home and if they do not comply, they will be given a citation.  Again, this bill is not a panacea to all of the challenges with young people out late at night.  But it can, however, help.  I strongly believe that the vast majority of our young people will comply with the law as intended.

My biggist issue with this law is that it could lead to discrimination of people over the age of 18 but who look young. Do college aged students now need to carry ID's in Montgomery to prove thier age? Also, how would adress the fact that this law might create a greater distrust of the police by youth?

Where a person appears to be underaged after the hours and does not fall under one of the exceptions, an officer may reasonably question the person's age and status.  The law provides an affirmative defense for someone who falls within one of the exceptions.  It is the responsibility of the government to prove that someone is underage.  In a few cases, a police officer may stop somone who appears to be under the age of 18 but who is not.  That is no different than situations involving persons who appear to be underaged- but are not- and who may be questioned when driving, drinking, or purchasing tobacco products.

Would this curfew be temporary or ongoing?

This legislation is intended as an ongoing measure, not a temporary one.  But as with any legislation, we have the option to later modify, sunset to a time certain or repeal it all together if we believe the public's interest would be better served by such action.

Thanks to all who sent in questions.  This has been a great exchange.

In This Chat
Isiah Leggett
In November 2006, Isiah Leggett was elected to a four-year term as Montgomery County Executive. He is the first African American to be elected to this public office. In November 2010 he was reelected by County voters with over 65% of the ballots cast. He served as a Professor of Law at the Howard University Law School from 1975 - 2006. He ran the day-to-day operations of the Law School as its Assistant Dean from 1979 – 1986.

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