Aldermen set on adopting curfew – Can’t agree whether effective age should be 16 or 17

Published 1:06 am Wednesday, September 20, 2023

What a difference a year can make.

Batesville aldermen reviewed a draft of a curfew ordinance at their Tuesday meeting, agreeing on each detail of the measure drawn up by attorney Colmon Mitchell except the age of minors that would fall under its jurisdiction.

The original instructions given to Mitchell by the board said they intended for all persons ages 17 and under to be included in a city-wide curfew effective seven days a week from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.

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Aldermen were close to voting on the measure when deputy City Clerk Shonna Weaver pointed out that many seniors in high school are 17 years of age. This prompted alderman Teddy Morrow to reconsider, saying he also thinkst a curfew on 17 year olds is too strict.

Alderman Dennis Land responded that lowering the curfew age to 16 would effectively exempt 17 year olds, weakening the intention of the ordinance. The board asked for the curfew ordinance in response to the increased number of minors who have recently been responsible for dozens of vehicle break-ins, and some thefts, but can’t be charged as adults.

“We will have to think about this, but I’m with Dennis and the others,” said alderman Stan Harrison. “There’s plenty of exceptions written in this ordinance if a person has a reason to be on the streets.”

“I can just tell you that on a weekend night there are going to be plenty of seventeen year olds riding the streets,” Morrow said. He also had reservations about an 11 p.m. curfew on weekend nights, suggesting it might also need to be an hour later on Friday and Saturdays.

The curfew would not affect any minor who is coming or going to a school event, a church event, a political rally, or a reasonable activity when accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Also in the ordinance are penalties starting with a $250 fine for first offense, and $500 for subsequent infractions for an offending minor’s violation of the curfew. Also, Mitchell said, the ordinance does include provisions for jail time for the parents or guardians, depending on the decisions of judges who hear the cases.

Board members agreed to hold their votes until they meet again to give them more time to decide whether to make the curfew age 16 or 17.  The next regular meeting is Oct 3 at 2 p.m. at City Hall.