A report on the public hearing held by the Harris County Juvenile Curfew Review Committee
Wednesday, August 29, 2007, 2 p.m.
Harris County Commissioners Court
UPDATE.....SEPTEMBER 7, 2007
The Legal Process
The current curfew ordinance for unincorporated Harris County must be reviewed at three year intervals, to be continued, modified, or abolished.  The Harris County Juvenile Curfew Review Committee was formed to research the need for the curfew and will make its recommendation to the Harris County Commissioners Court within a few days.  The Court is scheduled to vote on the curfew at its September 11th session, though that vote could be delayed if more information is needed before voting.

Currently, the ordinance includes a night-time curfew only, from midnight to 6 a.m.  The District Attorney's office is recommending that the curfew be expanded to cover the hours between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.  The August 29th hearing was scheduled by the committee when committee members realized that the education community had not received sufficient notice to allow good attendance at an earlier hearing, when law enforcement officials presented evidence to support the curfew expansion.

The Argument for a Daytime Curfew
Law enforcement officials want a daytime curfew, so that they can have probable cause to stop young people who are not in class during school hours. At this time, police officers report that many young people claim to be home-schoolers when stopped, leaving the police officer with no justifiable reason to inquire further about the young person's activities.  According to the District Attorney, many daytime home burglaries are committed by those under the age of 17.  It is law enforcement's hope that a daytime curfew will allow police officers to get many young burglars off the streets before they are able to commit crimes.  The District Attorney's office cited a number of statistics that led them to this conclusion. Under the expanded curfew, all young people under the age of 17 could be stopped and cited for a curfew violation, unless in the company of an adult.  Home schooling families are reassured that they may stop by their local police or constable station and receive a home-school identification card to show if they are stopped.  It was implied, but not clearly stated, at this hearing  that the identification card would excuse the student from the curfew violation.

Public Testimony at the Aug. 29 Hearing
About 35 to 40 people attended the public hearing.  Eight of them, all home-schoolers, spoke in opposition to the extended curfew, none in support.  Parent concerns included:

  • Innocent young people will be assumed guilty of a violation and be forced to prove their innocence.
  • Home-schooled students, who have been systematically taught to respect and honor law enforcement, will become afraid of policemen.
  • Home-schooling families will be hampered in their education activities, which often involve movement in public, such as ......a child walking down the street to the piano teacher's home..... a child jogging in his neighborhood for physical education... older students driving their younger siblings to classes... children downstairs at a bookstore while mom is upstairs
  • Recognized as private educators by the State of Texas, without the need to register their home schools with any agency, parents will resist having to register their existence with any law enforcement agency.
  • Even if some do register to get identification cards, young people are likely to forget their I.D.'s sometimes, leading to a potentially serious problem.

Speakers expressed their appreciation for the hard work of the committee and of law enforcement, but questioned the validity of the district attorney's logic in thinking that a daytime curfew would significantly lower crime, thinking instead that it will only serve to undermine their rights to educate their children privately.  One eloquent speaker assured the committee, with some heat, that her grandfather did not fight the Nazis in World War II, only to have his great-grandchildren stopped and asked for their "papers" on the streets of Harris County.  One committee member also read a letter from State Rep. Patricia Harless into the record, opposing the curfew expansion.  Though his attendance at the hearing was brief, County Judge Ed Emmett expressed great concern and indicated that he was leaning strongly against the curfew expansion.  At the close of testimony, attendees were asked to indicate their opposition to the extended curfew, and 35 did so.  Juvenile Curfew Review Committee Senior Assistant County Attorney Janet Marton reported all of her email on the topic was running in opposition.  One committee member noted that the City of Houston currently has a daytime curfew, and that no controversy about it had come to his attention.

What to Do Now
If you would like to send your comments to the committee before they make their recommendation to the Harris County Commissioners Court, email to 

Janet_Marton@ccl.hctx.net

If you want to write to the County Commissioners or County Judge, their contact information may be found at

Judge Emmett

Commissioner Lee

Commissioner Garcia

Commissioner Radack

Commissioner Eversole

You may also appear at the County Commissioners Court on Tuesday, September 11th, (meeting begins at 10 a.m).  Follow this link to sign up to speak at that meeting.

The Harris County Juvenile Curfew Review Committee has promised to email their recommendation to everyone who attended the Aug. 29th hearing, and this report will be updated with that information when it comes. 

UPDATE.....SEPTEMBER 7, 2007

Text of 9/7/07 email from the office of County Judge Ed Emmett:

The committee recommends that the evening curfew remain in place and that more information will be required before a daytime curfew can be considered by the committee.  Bottom line:  No daytime curfew.  Commissioners Court will consider the committee's recommendation at 10AM on September 11, 2007, in Commissioners Courtroom (Where our hearing was).  On behalf of County Judge Ed Emmett and the committee I thank you for your participation and input.
Doug Adkinson
Director, Criminal Justice Issues
Attorney at Law
County Judge Ed Emmett’s Office
1001 Preston, Suite 911
Houston , TX 77002
Phone:  713-755-4016
Fax:  713-755-8379
e-mail:  douglas_adkinson@co.harris.tx.us

Click here to view the committee's official recommendation to the court.


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  Revised:  November 05, 2007
  Contact: Bonnie Rowe
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