City of Marfa reinstates juvenile curfew

MARFA — Marfa City Council members voted to reinstate a long-expired juvenile curfew at last week’s city council meeting, after Police Chief Estévan Marquez and City Attorney Teresa Todd discovered the ordinance had been expired for over a decade in the wake of a few recent citations. 

The refreshed ordinance will apply to juveniles within city limits. In Texas, a juvenile is legally defined as a person 10 to 16 years of age. Curfew hours will extend from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight to 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Exceptions will be made for emergencies, if a child is with their parent or guardian, or if they are attending a civic event, like a school, city-sponsored or church event. 

“Before any kind of citation or any kind of action is taken, the burden is on the officer not just to ask how old you are but to also make sure that none of these exceptions apply,” said Todd. 

The Marfa Police Department had been enforcing the curfew unaware that the existing ordinance expired in 2010. Chief Marquez said citations issued during the lapse have since been annulled. Citations were few and far between, he said. 

“My officers are pretty lenient about it. I mean, most of the time, we have the kids that are coming in from a late game or something like that,” said Chief Marquez. 

He said there are occasionally incidents of tagging and graffiti, especially during the summertime, which officers try to intervene in. Plus, the curfew can be a useful tool to incentivize kids to get home safe, he said.

“This curfew comes into play in incidents where we do have the kids that are out late, at like 3 o’clock in the morning, in areas where we might have tagging in the parks and stuff,” said Chief Marquez. 

He said the police department has also received complaints about kids messing with lighting settings in public parks in order to stay after hours, and officers have discovered some damaged lights. 

When asked if the parents and guardians could be held accountable for their child not making curfew, Chief Marquez said the burden should really be on the kids to obey the curfew and own up to the consequences if they receive a citation.

“I remember growing up in Marfa, getting a citation for curfew, and it was up to me. My mom was like, ‘I’m not paying a citation, you’re gonna do community service,’” said Chief Marquez.

Fines will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but juveniles found in violation of the curfew will have the option to perform community service, said Chief Marquez. City Attorney Teresa Todd said the city council will readdress the ordinance in six months to review how it’s working, see how often it is being utilized and to make any necessary tweaks.