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Commonwealth v. Weston W.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
913 N.E.2d 832 (2009)


In response to increased juvenile crime, the city of Lowell, Massachusetts, enacted a curfew. The ordinance set curfew hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. for minors under 17. Police encountering someone suspected of violating the curfew could ask for identification and then follow either civil- or criminal-enforcement options for violators. The criminal option allowed police to arrest the minor, which could lead to a $300 fine, delinquency proceedings, and referral to children’s services. The civil-enforcement option let police give the minor a notice to appear, copied to the minor’s parents, followed by a civil proceeding with a potential $50 fine, without delinquency proceedings on the juvenile’s record or further consequences. Police arrested minors Weston W. and Adam A. (defendants) on separate occasions for violating the curfew and took them to jail. The juveniles moved to dismiss the charges, arguing the curfew ordinance violated rights guaranteed by the federal constitution and the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. The juvenile court judge initially found the ordinance’s criminal sanctions unconstitutional and then submitted questions to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court asking whether the ordinance violated equal protection and to clarify the appropriate standard of review for equal-protection challenges. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court consolidated the appeals and decided them together.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Cordy, J.)

Concurrence (Spina, J.)

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