The Unconstitutionality of a Teenage Curfew Law: a Case Brief of Maquoketa V. Russell

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For this case brief essay, I will be writing about the city of Maquoketa v. Russell. It was found in the juvenile law book page 11 chapter 1. This case happened on the evening of August 26, 1990. The main character is Russell but from what I read there was another young man with the last name Campbell who is involved too. Russell and Campbell were both minors at the time and they attended a teen dance in the city of Maquoketa, Iowa. When the dance ended, two girls wandered the streets loud talking to friends and eventually got a ride with someone.

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While they were in the car, the driver was pulled over by the Maquoketa police. The driver was arrested for violating juvenile curfew and the two girls got a fine of thirty-two dollars. In the Maquoketa law they made it unlawful for minors to be on streets, sidewalks, and public places between 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. unless you are with a parent or guardian. Russell and Campbell claimed that the curfew law was unconstitutional and a violation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. The case had been appealed to the Iowa Supreme court.

The legal issue question still unanswered was “Was the juvenile curfew ordinance constitutional?” The answer is no because the law was deemed unconstitutionally and it forced a total restriction on movement of juveniles that provided lawful exceptions for liberated juveniles or in cases of emergency. However, in a majority opinion the United States Supreme Court predicted that minors' constitutional rights are not always coextensive with those of adults.

Why was the law deemed overbroad? In the article, it stated two reasons. The court argued that the language said in the law was unclear and raised disturbing questions like “What do parents need to approve” “What is an acceptable activity”. The law provided no direction on these questions. The law also provided not a lot of exceptions for minors who are engaged in legal activities. The court had noted minors traveling alone to and from the store was a violation of the Maquoketa law curfew.

The case significance is the law in this case was extremely restrictive and generally constructed. The law provided exceptions but no exceptions were made for other lawful conditions like an emergency errand and juveniles’. The first Amendment right is freedom of religion, speech and assembly. It hindered Campbell and Russell’s ability and the whole trio in the car who got pulled over to participate in activities unless supervised by an adult.

This case is important to me because the law is always worried about minors and not all minors are bad and disrespectful, I was once one. I personally did not start going out until I was 12. My parents trusted me and I never had them going through unnecessary stuff because of who I was around. The conclusion we come to today requires us to reach only one: whether the curfew law is invalid because it is unconstitutionally overbroad. We conclude the law is unconstitutionally overbroad, we declare it invalid. Our conclusion requires us to repeal the minors' convictions under the law.

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