Westy Meisenheimer

Westy Meisenheimer

WASKOM — The Waskom City Council, on Tuesday, renewed its City Ordinance No. 185, regarding the curfew set for juvenile residents.

“That requires a review periodically,” explained Waskom Police Chief Westy Meisenheimer.

“We did modify it a little bit last time, but the way it’s set now with the times, and so forth, has worked real well for us,” he told the council.

Meisenheimer asked the council to consider his recommendation to renew the ordinance as it is written.

“It’s working good,” the police chief said.

The ordinance, City Ordinance No. 185 regarding “curfew hours for minors” was originally adopted in Aug. 11, 1998 to deter the amount of crime performed by minors or persons younger than age 17. At that time the city had seen an increase in juvenile violence and crime.

“Persons under the age of 17 are particularly susceptible by their lack of maturity and experience to participate in unlawful activities and to be victims of older perpetrators of crime,” the ordinance states. “The city of Waskom has an obligation for the reduction of the incidence of juvenile criminal activity.”

The ordinance was last amended Aug. 14, 2001, changing the weekend curfew hours from the initial 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m. on any Saturday and Sunday to the current 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m. on any Friday and Saturday.

Meisenheimer told the News Messenger before that the ordinance has been a successful tool when it comes to preventing juvenile crime.

“It’s worked well as it’s written,” the police chief said previously. “It gives us another tool, sometimes in those late-night hours, when we’re dealing with those situations, (such as) juveniles roaming around and (getting into) mischief; so it’s a very helpful tool to have; and we use that tool to our advantage, but on the other hand, we’re careful about applying it.

“We use it, as needed, as a helpful tool for a crime deterrent,” Meisenheimer said.

On Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Murph King moved to accept the ordinance, as is, and Alderman Tommy Philpot seconded the motion.

The ordinance says that the curfew for minors was set in the interest of the public health, safety, and general welfare and will help to attain the foregoing objectives. It was also set to diminish the undesirable impact of such conduct on the citizens of Waskom.

Per the ordinance, curfew hours mean 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday until 6 a.m. of the following day; and 12:01 a.m. until 6 a.m. on any Friday and Saturday.

The ordinance not only establishes curfew hours for minors, but defines terms creating offenses for minors, parents and guardians of minors. It also defines business establishment violation curfew regulations.

The ordinance additionally provides for enforcement by law enforcement officials and provides for a waiver by the municipal court of jurisdiction over a minor when required under the Texas Family Code, providing a penalty not to exceed $500, providing a saving clause.

Offenses/Defenses

According to the ordinance, a minor commits an offense if he or she remains in any public place or on the premises of an establishment within the city during curfew hours. A parent or guardian of a minor commits an offense if he knowingly permits, or by insufficient control allows the minor to remain in any public place or on the premises of any establishment within the city during curfew hours. The owner, operator, or any employee of an establishment commits an offense if he or she knowingly allows the minor to remain upon the premises of the establishment during curfew hours.

The ordinance does allow for some exceptions. It is a defense to prosecution under Subsection b that the minor was accompanied by the minor’s parent or guardian; on an errand at the direction of the minor’s parent or guardian, without any detour or stop; in a motor vehicle involved in interstate travel; engaged in an employment activity or going to or returning home from an employment activity, without any detour or stop; involved in an emergency; on the sidewalk next to the minor’s residence or abutting the residence of a next-door neighbor if the neighbor did not complain to the police department or marshal’s office about the minor’s presence; attending an official school, religious or other recreational activity supervised by adults and/or sponsored by the city of Waskom, a civic organization, or another similar entity that takes responsibility for the minor, or going to or returning home, without any detour or stop, from activities mentioned above.

Other defenses include if the minor is exercising First Amendment rights protected by the United States Constitution such as the free exercise of religion, speech and the right to assembly; or if the minor is married or had been married or had disabilities of minority removed in accordance with Chapter 31 of the Texas Family Code.

The ordinance further notes that it is a defense to prosecution that the owner, operator or employee of an establishment promptly notified the police department or marshal’s office that a minor was present on the premises of the establishment during curfew hours and refused to leave.

Enforcement/ Penalties

“Before taking any enforcement action under this Section, an officer shall ask the apparent offender’s age and reason for being in the public place,” the ordinance states. “The officer shall not issue a citation or make an arrest under this section unless the officer reasonably believes that an offense has occurred and that, based on any response and other circumstances, no defense in Subsection (c) is present.”

Under penalties, a person who violates a provision is guilty of a separate offense for each day or part of a day during which the violation is committed, continued, or permitted. Each offense, upon conviction, is punishable by a fine up to $500.

When required by Section 51.08 of the Texas Family Code, as amended, the municipal court shall waive original jurisdiction over a minor who violated the ordinance and shall refer to the minor to juvenile court.

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