University of Baltimore Law Forum


The sun is setting on a late-August evening in Baltimore. Children are playing in the gym at an elementary school in Berea, a small neighborhood in East Baltimore. Ulysses Cofield is watching the clock. Cofield keeps the Fort Worth Elementary School gym open late so the neighborhood kids have a place to blow off steam at the end of the day. At 8:30 p.m., he tells a pair of ten-year-olds they must leave so they can be home within the next thirty minutes. Cofield closes the gym for the evening, then scans the block for lingering children; he wants to order the children home before police do. This anecdote hardly is unique—the result of Baltimore City’s juvenile curfew ordinance, which took effect in August 2014. The ordinance subjects minors to both “nighttime” and “daytime” curfews. Both curfews prohibit minors from “remain[ing] in or about any public place or establishment” during specified hours, depending on the minor’s age, the day of the week, and the time of year. There are, however, exceptions to each curfew. The curfew further forbids parents “to knowingly permit or, by insufficient control, to allow” their children to violate the curfew.