Moments before curfew by cdnsue @ Flickr.
By ANDY SEVILLA
For juveniles in San Marcos, it is no longer illegal to roam the streets late at night or during school hours.
The city’s juvenile curfew law expired in May of 2007, but police continued writing citations. Those cited are now able to fight the legal system.
“We immediately told our officers to quit writing tickets once we found out the ordinance had expired,” said San Marcos Police Chief Howard Williams. “We notified the city’s legal department and asked the court to dismiss everything written since May of 2007.”
Williams said juveniles affected by the expired ordinance should contact the municipal court to get a dismissal of the charges and their record expunged. He added that he doesn’t “see why they can’t get their money back” for any fines assessed, but ultimately that is up to the city’s legal department and the court.
State law requires curfew ordinances to expire every three years, forcing municipalities revisit the issue. Williams said the San Marcos curfew was last reinstated on May 10, 2004.
San Marcos City Manager Rick Menchaca said the city is pushing towards a system that would easily identify any future ordinance expirations as well as any discrepancies in the city’s books.
“I’m the police chief, this is a penal ordinance, so I take full responsibility for not catching this mistake,” Williams said. “I think it’s pretty clear that it’s my responsibility and I just didn’t do it. But we’re moving to get the matter addressed.”
Williams is aiming to put the ordinance back on the books within a month. However, a public hearing will be required before the city council can approve the ordinance in two readings.
“This ordinance gives us some leverage of dealing with juveniles in the night,” Williams said. “The ordinance is sufficient as it stands so no new changes will be necessary. But the city council will ultimately decide what goes on the books.”
Last year, 68 curfew violation tickets were issued and 85 were handed out in 2007, some of which came after the May 10 expiration date.
The curfew legislation said juveniles under the age of 16 were not allowed on the streets between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weekdays, and midnight to 6 a.m. on weekends. The ordinance also prohibited juveniles to be out “during normal school hours,” according to Williams. Those hours were defined as 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.Email | Print