A curfew is an order specifying a time (of day, usually in the evening or night) after which certain regulations apply.
The most common meaning of this is the time by which a person — particuarly a minor — needs to be within their home or dorm. Normally this time is set by the parent (or others acting in loco parentis such as babysitters and housemasters.) Though there are times and places where a curfew time has been set by law, even for non-minors.
The word "curfew" comes from the French phrase "couvre-feu" which means "cover the fire". It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as "curfeu", which later became the modern "curfew".
Examples of curfews laws in different countries
The police in two cities Silkeborg and Slagelse have announced that they will detain children less than 15 years of age at the police station and inform their parents to take them home from the station if they are found in town between midnight and 5 am. There is no law in Denmark at this time instituting a national curfew, so children are usually not punished or warned in any way. The authorities in Aarhus have only suggested it and have sent a letter to the parents.
Under Iceland's Child Protection Act (no. 80/2002 Art. 92), children aged 12 and under may not be outdoors after 20:00 (8:00 p.m.) unless accompanied by an adult. Children aged 13 to 16 may not be outdoors after 22:00 (10:00 p.m.), unless on their way home from a recognized event organized by a school, sports organization or youth club. During the period 1 May to 1 September, children may be outdoors for two hours longer.
Children and teenagers that break curfew are taken to the local police station and police officers inform their parents to get them. The age limits stated here shall be based upon year of birth, not date of birth. If a parent cannot be reached, the child or teenager is taken to a shelter.
The United Kingdom's 2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act created zones that allow police from 9 PM to 6 AM to hold and escort home unaccompanied minors under the age of 16, whether badly behaved or not. Although hailed as a success, the High Court ruled in one particular case that the law did not give the police a power of arrest, and officers could not force someone to come with them. On appeal the court of appeal held that the act gave police powers to escort minors home only if they are involved in, or at risk from, actual or imminently anticipated bad behaviour. 
Curfew law in the United States is usually a matter of state law, rather than federal law. However, the Constitution guarantees certain rights, which have been applied to the states through the 14th Amendment. Hence, any state's curfew law may be overruled and struck down if, for example, it violates the teen's 1st, 4th, 5th or 14th Amendment rights (or the parent's 9th Amendment right to privacy in parenting). Nonetheless, curfews are set by state and local governments. They vary by state and even by county or municipality. In some cities there are curfews for persons under the age of 18.
- "curfew". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
- Press release from the police in Silkeborg
- The streets of Slagelse cleaned of minors (In Danish)
- Letter to the parents in three languages
- Late night youth curfew a success
- Curfews in the State of New York
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