Your son was out at a school party. After the party, he and some friends went to the park and hung around until after midnight. That’s when the police arrived. Now your son is charged with violating curfew, and you may be penalized as a result.

In Illinois, a child under the age of 17 violates curfew when he or she lingers or stays in a public place or even a private business during curfew hours. Curfew hours are from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 12:01 a.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings. Violating curfew is a petty offense carrying a fine up to $500, and a judge can order the parent to perform community service. A parent or guardian can also be charged with a curfew violation if they knowingly allow a minor to violate curfew.

Fortunately, there are many exceptions to this rule. Your child can be out during curfew hours if they are with you. Your child can stand on the sidewalk next to your or your neighbor’s house (provided the neighbor doesn’t call the police if it’s by their house). You can send your child to the store or on another errand and your child can keep a job, provided they do not detour in route. Other defenses include riding in a motor vehicle in interstate travel; being involved in an emergency; attending an official school, religious, civic or recreational function supervised by adults or exercising First Amendment rights.

When it comes to driving, curfew applies to licensed drivers under the age of 18 (rather than 17). You are not allowed to drive between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights or between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on weeknights. However, many of the same exceptions to curfew apply to your driver’s license as well. You may drive if 1) you are accompanied by your parent or guardian or running an errand at their request, 2) involved in an emergency, 3) driving to or from a religious, recreational or school activity without making stops, 4) driving on the interstate, 5) going to or from work, 6) you are married or otherwise emancipated, or 7) you are exercising First Amendment rights.

Municipalities are allowed to enact their own regulations. The Village of Winnetka simply adopted the state’s law. In Evanston, however, the fine can be as much as $750. Curfew hours have also been tightened by one hour from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Evanston law allows a parent to delegate someone over age 21 to accompany their child. In Kenilworth, the parent-approved companion need only be 18. Glencoe allows a minor to attend any assembly activity “for which a permit has been lawfully issued.”

While under Illinois law, the parent commits an offense if they knowingly allow a minor to violate the law, the Village of Wilmette also penalizes a parent or guardian who “knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows,” the minor to violate the law. Furthermore, if you are the owner or an employee of a business and you knowingly allow a minor to remain on your premises during curfew hours, you can be charged with a curfew violation. However, it is a defense if you notified the police when a minor is refusing to leave your premises.

If you are approached by police for a curfew violation, the officer must first ask your age and why you are out. Think carefully before responding. If you have a legitimate defense, the officer might not charge you. An officer may only charge you if they reasonably believe, based on your response, that you have no defense. However, without a defense, it may be better if you do not answer. An experienced attorney can better assist you if you have not already made admissions of guilt. Even if you have committed a curfew violation, an experienced criminal law attorney can help navigate the best strategy for your defense. If you are the parent, did you “knowingly” allow your child to violate curfew? At worst, an attorney may help negotiate a more beneficial plea agreement.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)