Regulation of Personal Conduct and Habits

A municipality in its exercise of police power is empowered to regulate personal conducts and habits.  A municipality can enact legislation restricting the personal liberties of its citizens and can impose penalties for violation where the general welfare, public health, and safety demands such enactment.

A municipality in the exercise of a police power is entitled to pass a curfiew ordinance.  A regulation issued by a municipality requiring certain or all people to leave the streets or be at home at a prescribed hour is a curfew.  The purpose of ordering a curfew is to maintain public order.  A curfew is ordered to suppress targeted groups as well.  In some states, daytime curfews have been introduced to prevent high school-age youth from visiting public places during school hours.

The deprivation of a minor’s liberty does not necessarily amount to confinement.  The regulation of a minor’s activities and adult activities are not the same.  Generally, minors are subject to adult care and control.  Municipalities are empowered to pass curfews, based solely on age, that discriminate against minors and limit their liberty.

A curfew ordinance forbidding juveniles from loitering in the  streets during nighttime hours is constitutionally valid.  The purpose would be to keep children safe and prevent the incidence of juvenile crime during nighttime hours. To forbid juveniles from loitering in the streets during nighttime hours has a real and substantial relationship to the dual goal of protection of children and the community.  Such an ordinance does not unduly restrict the rights of minors[i].

In order for a legislation to be valid, the legislation must have a reasonable relation to the objects to be attained.   In a particular case, the court determined that a municipal curfew ordinance prohibiting persons under the age of seventeen from being on a street or in a public place between designated hours for a purpose other than required by business, or unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, is unconstitutional.  Such an ordinance has no real or substantial relationship to the primary purpose of the statute.  Such an ordinance is an unlawful invasion of personal rights and liberties[ii].

In the U.S., inhaling, breathing, or drinking a compound, liquid, chemical, or any substance known as glue, adhesive, cement, mucilage, dope or any material or substance, or combination thereof with the intent of becoming intoxicated, elated, dazed, paralyzed, and irrational, or in any manner changing, distorting or disturbing the eyesight, thinking process, balance, or coordination of such person is prohibited.  Any condition so induced is deemed to be an intoxicated condition.   A municipality is empowered to pass an ordinance prohibiting or restricting the use of such substances.  However, the ordinance shall not prohibit the use of glue under the direction of a doctor, physician, surgeon, dentist or pediatrist authorized to direct or prescribe the same[iii].

Conduct which is offensive to the senses of hearing and smell is a valid subject of regulation under the police power[iv].  A municipal ordinance that proscribes conduct that is unnecessarily offensive to the visual sensibilities, or offensive to the sense of hearing or smell of the average person, is a valid regulation under the police power.

[i] In re Nancy C., 28 Cal. App. 3d 747, 758 (Cal. App. 1st Dist. 1972).

[ii] Alves v. Justice Court of Chico Judicial Dist., 148 Cal. App. 2d 419 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 1957).

[iii] Linville v. State, 359 So. 2d 450 (Fla. 1978).

[iv] People v. Rubenfeld, 254 N.Y. 245, 248 (N.Y. 1930).


Inside Regulation of Personal Conduct and Habits