In times of severe civil unrest, state and local administrations can implement cuts to help them manage things. With a curfew in place, the Police will arrest anyone on the street, for any other excuse, after a specified time.
The First Amendment, on the other hand, demands that demonstrators make their grievances public in general, the right to free speech and freedom of assembly. And governments generally cannot close the protest only because they don’t like the message or because it’s tough for the law enforcement department to manage.
Here are some of the constitutional concepts on the protestors’ right to the First Amendment and the government officials’ authority to use curfews to quench crime during the demonstration. (Read about your rights during a protest for related information.)
Why are Governments Using Curfews?
In mass demonstrations, the vast majority of protesters demonstrate peacefully without violating any rules. But sometimes people are not so peaceful in the mix.
If many protesters obey the law and a small few cause trouble, the Police will find and arrest the few troublers difficult. The big crowd will create a sort of tampon between the Police and the people who breach the law. The Police may be aware of crimes such as vandalism and plundering, but the masses may avoid them.
In advance of these circumstances, government officials may decide to use a curfew to restore order. A curfew is intended to remove the needle in the haystack dilemma so that the Police can arrest anyone on the street. In principle, the more people who observe the curfew, the less likely it is that the first place will be violent or devastating.
Curfews and Unfairness
Following George Floyd’s assassination, mass protests prove that the Government had maltreated the people. There are also protests. Protests also respond to concerns such as institutional racism and police brutality. A curfew allows the Police to decide who to detain more discretion and provides the opportunity for even more unfair treatment. In reality, a Police Officer can choose who will arrest many people who violate a curfew. Some argue that the unchecked discretion of the Police exacerbates problems of existing discrimination. In other words, if the issue is the misuse of the police force, the solution is not to give the Police more control.
The Curfew Act
In general, the courts consider curfews a reasonable compromise between freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and the urban and local government needs to preserve security and order. Whenever the state orders a curfew, it could conflict with the rights to the First Amendment. After all, at some hours of the day, a curfew makes it unlawful for people to talk and assemble. It also halts the public from doing so in the designated period, if you want to go to their usual activities, such as food shopping.
In emergency cases, though, the legislation offers the government a lot of discretion in making decisions that would not fly in normal circumstances. In determining whether toeing is legal, courts appear to investigate whether toeing:
- is legally required to achieve a considerable government interest and is ‘narrowly tailored.’
- Allows people still adequate ways to exercise their right to free expression.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, courts usually found that limits on curfew are allowed in times of severe civil disorder. If recent activity such as looting and violence has been significant, courts would likely find that a curfew is a fair measure of order and security.
Furthermore, since protest curfews are typically confined to specific times and locations, courts commonly agree that interference with First Amendment rights is not sufficient to make the restriction unconstitutional.
If a Curfew Imposed by Your Government
Whatever the theoretical potential for practical legal challenges, someone who violates an active curfew is likely to be detained. If an arrested protestor eventually convinces a judge of the prohibition, the protestor will undoubtedly go to prison shortly.
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