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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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In Kids & Family

It's 10 p.m., do you know where your teenager is?

I gotta be home by when?


Teenagers love the nighttime.

Midnight movies, bonfires and going to a friend's house at 11 at night; we're known for staying up until an ungodly hour. But while we may do it often, it isn't always legal.

Not many teens know the details of official curfews, they just know when their parents want them home. Many parents don't know what time curfew is, either, nor to who it applies. They just set one for their particular child.

I talked with many friends and got mixed answers about how much they know about the "official" curfew. One of my friends knew exactly what time it was because he had been stopped by an officer on the way home from his girlfriend's house late one night. I talked to their parents also. I was surprised that more than a few knew what time curfew is.

However, whenever my friends and I are ready to go out and start an evening, the curfews set by our parents vary. Some of us need to be home by 10 p.m., and others at midnight. So what are the rules on curfew in the Milwaukee area? I talked with Milwaukee Police Department Lt. Ray Banks to find out.

Big city nights

The curfew for anyone under 17 in Milwaukee is 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends.

The fine for violating the curfew is a $74 ticket for juveniles. The individual is a court appearanace and may be given an alternate program such as community service. If the individual doesn't show in court, his/her driver's license will be suspended.

There is also an ordinance in Milwaukee that allows officers to give the juvenile's parents a $125 responsibility citation for letting the child stay out past curfew. Because the juvenile often doesn't have a job, the parents sometimes get saddled with paying both tickets.

Banks said more tickets are given to parents because police want moms and dads to understand the importance of curfew because of all the dangers young people face at night. Banks believes that while everyone knows there is a curfew, not all know the specifics.

Lt. Banks said the police department actively enforces curfew, conducting regular sweeps to look for juveniles out past curfew. Officers, he notes, are proactive in working with the kids, especially kids that come from broken homes or other tough situations, to help them understand that the curfew was put in place to help protect them from the dangers of the street at night.

There are exceptions to the curfew, including one that allows juveniles to return home from work or babysitting.

As an example, I asked Lt. Banks about what would happen if a teen was stopped returning from a movie that began at 10:30 p.m. and didn't finish until midnight or later. He said that every officer would treat that situation differently, but that he might ask to see the ticket stub then ask for the parent's phone number. He would give them a call, to let them know that their child was out after curfew and to not let it happen again.

Suburban teens also face curfew

Some local suburbs also have curfews, including Menomonee Falls, Sussex and Brookfield, where curfew is 11 p.m. daily for teenagers 16 years of age and younger.

Curfew is a fact of life that teens will never likely want to obey. Whether it's by the law or by parental edict, teens have to be home by a certain time.

We may not like it, but it keeps us out of trouble.

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