Curfew, a broken idea, to be wiped off books

Months after Florida juvenile curfews were declared unconstitutional, Pinellas Park is poised to officially throw in the towel.

Published July 27, 2005

PINELLAS PARK - Most governments spend their time putting new rules on the books, but on Thursday, this city's council is scheduled to remove one.

The vote is really just a matter of form. The curfew has been dead since last November, when the state Supreme Court narrowly ruled that it was unconstitutional.

Even before then, the rule had lost its clout. Pinellas Park had suspended enforcement in 2001 while the appeals worked their way through the court. The suspension was an acknowledgement that lower courts had also ruled the ordinance illegal.

But even though the rule had lost its effect, Pinellas Park retained signs at city entrances informing all comers that a juvenile curfew was in effect. Those signs were removed this month after Pinellas Park resident Randy Heine questioned their presence.

Heine said he wanted the signs to come down because they didn't mean anything once the ordinance was declared unconstitutional.

"If they left it there to scare people, it's not right," Heine said.

Indeed, that's kind of what happened, City Manager Mike Gustafson said.

A few weeks before Heine objected to the signs, Gustafson said he asked the Police Department about the possibility of removing them.

"They said, "Ah, let's leave them up. It might deter,' " Gustafson said.

Then, when Gustafson got Heine's e-mail, he consulted the city attorney, who said there might be a problem. So the signs came down, and the council will likely erase the ordinance from the books.