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Wednesday, February 5, 2003

Curfew Bill Goes Before Senate

By Kate Nash
Journal Capitol Bureau
    SANTA FE Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez is making another push for a teen curfew.
    Chávez, who lost a court battle with the curfew during his first mayoral term, said he's trying the idea again in an effort to protect teens.
    "The intent is not to criminalize anybody," Chávez said this week.
    To get the curfew, Chávez is counting on help from Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque.
    Payne is sponsoring a bill (SB 179) that would allow New Mexico cities to adopt a curfew by amending the state Children's Code.
    Cities such as Albuquerque would need such an amendment because District Court Judge Robert L. Thompson in 1997 said the state code overrides local law.
    Civil-liberties advocates say the curfew proposal goes too far.
    "We don't think it should be a crime for youths if it isn't a crime for an adult to be out," said Diane Wood, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union.
    "If a teen is out breaking into cars or assaulting someone, that's something," she said. "But I don't think being outside at certain times is a crime."
    Curfews often have faced legal challenges.
    The Washington state Supreme Court late last month struck down a curfew in Sumner, saying its wording was "unconstitutionally vague."
    Chávez said he's hoping to avoid similar pitfalls.
    If approved and signed by Gov. Bill Richardson, the Albuquerque City Council could set out the curfew hours and exemptions.
    Other New Mexico cities would have the same option.