By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Wednesday, the city of Baltimore entered into its second night of a city-wide curfew. For the next five nights, no one is allowed in public spaces from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Some exceptions are being made for medical emergencies or people coming from or going to work.

“Our officers have a wide range of discretion with the curfew,” said Capt. Eric Kowalczyk with the Baltimore Police Department. “Our officers are going to use common sense to enforce the curfew.”

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To impose an emergency curfew is relatively rare. So, when can governments call a curfew? Good Question.

“For some people, curfews aren’t legal at all,” said David Schultz, a law professor at Hamline University. “We have a constitutional right protected by the First Amendment to be on the streets and to be out in public whenever we want, and the government bears a heavy burden to prove why we shouldn’t be able to do that.”

Schultz said local governments can institute limited and temporary curfews when there is a compelling governmental interest. The state law allows for a mayor or city council to impose these curfews for a variety of reasons that range from law enforcement to natural disasters.

“What this is about is preserving the public peace,” said Kowalczyk.

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In 2011, Minneapolis instituted a temporary curfew over parts of city after the tornado that devastated North Minneapolis.

But what a city can’t do is institute a broad curfew without an emergency.

“You would not be able to see Mayor Hodges say, ‘We don’t like the fact that there’s lot of crime, so between 10 at night and 6 in the morning, people are barred from being on the streets,’” Schultz said. “It’s going to have to be some type of emergency situation that justifies the curfew.”

But, when it comes to juveniles, there can be blanket curfews. In Hennepin County, for example, 12- to 14-year-old children must be home by 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. For 15- to 17-year-old kids, the hours are 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends.

“People under the age of 18 have lesser constitutional rights, or lesser rights, than fully grown adults,” Schultz said. “We know this already. There are certain things adults can do [that children can’t], everything from voting to access to alcohol and tobacco to driving.”

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In a limited number of cases, courts have struck down local juvenile curfews.

Heather Brown