Farmville Curfew Now Has A Bite

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, April 21, 2011

FARMVILLE – There won't be any church bells guiding villagers home in the dark but the curfew for minors in Farmville is 11 p.m. and the ordinance now has something in common with dental practices-more teeth.

Acting on a judicial nudge, the Town of Farmville has fine-tuned its curfew at the request of Police Chief Doug Mooney.

“It was brought to my attention,” the police chief wrote in a memo to Town Manager Gerald Spates, “that our local ordinance needs to be corrected for the punishment…Currently our ordinance shows the penalty as…a class 2 misdemeanor, which is incorrect.”

Each curfew violation by any minor-under 18 years old-“shall be disposed of as provided…in the Code of Virginia. Any parent, guardian or other adult person having the care and custody of a minor violating the provisions…upon a conviction therefore shall be punished as provided…” the police chief advised Spates.

The minor would be subject to any punishment, not the parent or guardian, but that doesn't relieve parents from needing to know where their child is, Chief Mooney said Wednesday.

There are provisions, in fact, where state law and a local ordinance could prescribe a penalty in cases where the parent or guardian willfully lets their child violate the curfew and wreak havoc-up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 12 months in jail.

But those cases are not common.

Often curfew violations are an inadvertent slip-up from not keeping track of the time.

A curfew violation, in fact, is regarded as a statutory offense, meaning it is an illegal action because of the person's age. An 18-year-old can stay out after 11 p.m. A 17-year-old cannot. The same activity, legal or illegal because of the individual's age.

“We're not going to lock them up,” Chief Mooney told The Herald regarding curfew violators but a record will be kept and if there are multiple violations a petition could be filed and the guilty minor placed on probation.

When discussed by Town Council this spring, Town Attorney, Donald C. Blessing, noted that there were concerns coming from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court bench “about the enforceability” of Farmville's ordinance and, as a result, an inclination not to enforce the curfew ordinance as it was then on the books.

Blessing told council members that he views the amendment, unanimously adopted by Town Council, as “a valuable tool for law enforcement because it gives you a justifiable, a legally justifiable reason to stop someone, who appears to be underage, because of an apparent violation of the law.”

Oftentimes, Blessing noted, there may other conduct that is “much more important to us in law enforcement in which they may be engaged but to check it out you really need to have a better reason than just 'Hey, what are you doing?'”

The ordinance amendment, Blessing summed up, provides police with a valuable tool and one that “I believe will be acceptable to the judge.”

The curfew ordinance now has, he said, “more enforceability, more teeth.”