Changing Macon-Bibb County’s curfew presents some legal challenges

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – As community members are continuing the discussion on enforcing a curfew change in Macon-Bibb, members of the Macon-Bibb County Judicial Circuit are trying to figure out if it’s legally possible.

Since the NAACP’s plea to move the curfew up to 10:00 pm for kids, the organization has been trying to meet with local leaders.

Although many say they’re open to the idea of helping Macon’s youth however they can, changing the county code may come with some challenges.

“Is it constitutional and can we really do this? That’s really the litmus test,” said Macon-Bibb County Solicitor General Rebecca Grist.

It’s a complex problem with an even more complex solution.

“I think people are concerned because of the magnitude of violence in the community,” NAACP President Gwenette Westbrooks told 41NBC.

The Solicitor General along with Macon Judicial Circuit District Attorney David Cooke are just a few of those in the discussion.

“I’m for any type of program that’s going to help kids and keep them out of trouble,” Cooke said.

Grist says requiring an earlier curfew for teens in Macon-Bibb County under 18 would need to allow for some exceptions.

“Let’s say the child is 17 or 16 year-old and has a job at a restaurant that doesn’t close until 2:00 AM,” she explained.

There are also some stipulations on where parents come into the conversation.

“It’s a gray area as far as trying to hold parents accountable for a curfew violation which is a municipal code violation. It’s not even a state law,” she continued.

Both she and Cooke say if not carefully designed, it could violate constitutional rights.

“It would be very difficult to prosecute a parent because this is in their ‘per view’ of how to raise a child,” she said.

That’s why Cooke and his office are also working with the school district on a program that he hopes will keep them out of court all together.

“Less serious offenses never come to juvenile court. Instead the services they would’ve gotten are given to the child on the school level,” Cooke said.

Though it’s a process finding a solution Westbrooks says she’s happy local leaders are listening.

“It makes me feel good that people are willing to sit down at the table to discuss it,” she added.

To start, the Solicitor General’s Office is researching curfew violation penalties and how it’s enforced in other cities. They say there are some cities that have a maximum $500 penalty for parents.

Westbrooks says after speaking with the Board of Education, the Sheriff, the Mayor and Solicitor General, they may be meeting the week of October 8th to sit down and talk more about the issue.