Kintigh’s curfew clears committee

February 13, 2011 • Local News

A Roswell lawmaker’s attempt to give municipalities the authority over whether to enact curfew laws for minors, cleared its first hurdle Saturday as it made its way through the House Health and Government Affairs Committee.

Rep. Dennis Kintigh’s, RRoswell, legislation seeks to give local governments the authority to restrict minors from being unattended in public at night and would also give police the power to escort truant children back to schools during the day. The bill passed the weekend committee meeting following a 3-2 vote and will now head to the House Judiciary Committee.

“That’s a very positive sign,” said Kintigh, following the vote. “T[auth] his is a good discussion.”

Addressing the committee, Kintigh told fellow lawmakers that his bill seeks to protect minors from danger, rather than simply impose restrictions on their movement. A similar curfew law established by the city of Albuquerque in the 1990s was shot down after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the ordinance in court. However, Kintigh says this bill would be different and fixes the technicality that allowed the ACLU to have the Albuquerque curfew tossed.

The lawmaker also said the bill has the support of local Roswell government of ficials, adding that if the proposal were to pass into law, that it would likely be brought up for discussion in Chaves County immediately. “Children out during the wrong time of day have an increased likelihood of being victimized,” he said to the committee. “This bill was brought to me by members of the City Council in Roswell.”

According to the law, police who find minors out past curfew are obliged to contact the child’s parents or actually drive the child home. Minors cannot be put into juvenile detention centers, and municipalities would be required to set up a separate area to hold detained individuals. The bill passed on party lines following multiple objections from some present at the committee meeting, including a representative from the ACLU.

The organization’s executive director told the Roswell Daily Record earlier in the month that if the bill were passed into law, the group would likely challenge it in court. “This bill would allow police to detain youth unlawfully and possibly assign them a criminal penalty if they repeat offend,” Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico, said when the bill was first introduced.

“We believe such laws are unconstitutional because they pose an overly broad restriction on youths’ freedom of movement and deny them fair treatment under the law.” Kintigh defends his bill by saying that courts have ruled that minors do not have the same freedoms as adults. The lawmaker expects to have a “more robust” conversation on constitutional rights when the bill hits the floor of the Judiciary Committee, he said.

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