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Not every state restriction of a child's freedom derivatively abridges the fundamental rights of parents. The Supreme Court has rejected the view that parents possess an unqualified right to raise children that trumps any government regulation of their children's conduct. The state has a wide range of power for limiting parental freedom and authority in things affecting the child's welfare.
The Charlottesville City Council amended Section 17-7 of the City Code to enact a new juvenile nocturnal curfew ordinance. The ordinance prohibited minors, defined as unemancipated persons under seventeen, from remaining in any public place, motor vehicle, or establishment within city limits during curfew hours. The ordinance, however, provided exceptions for activities where the minors were accompanied by a parent, in supervised activities, in interstate travel, on property abutting parents' residence, emergencies, and when exercising their First Amendment rights. Plaintiff minors brought the present action for declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that the ordinance violated their rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. At trial, plaintiffs dismissed their Fourth Amendment claims. Following trial, the district court rejected plaintiffs’ remaining claims and denied their motion for a permanent injunction. Plaintiffs appealed.
Was the new juvenile nocturnal curfew ordinance unconstitutional?
The court agreed that the ordinance was constitutional and affirmed the judgment. In reviewing the ordinance, the court held that the child's rights were not coextensive with that of adults. It also held that parents did not have an unqualified right to raise their children that could trump every government regulation. The law was reasonably related to the important governmental interests of preventing crime, protecting juveniles, and strengthening parental responsibility. It was reasonable to apply the restrictions to those under the age of 17. The ordinance was not void for vagueness because it fairly provided minimal guidelines to govern enforcement and gave reasonable notice of the proscribed conduct.