The Eatonville Town Council could be taking a hard look at its youth curfew, with some councilmembers in favor of repealing the 1994 ordinance.

At the April 9 council meeting, a first reading of a repeal of that ordinance was discussed and ultimately tabled. The conversation will continue on the matter.

On March 12, Councilmember James Schrimpsher requested to repeal the ordinance - chapter 9.37 in the Eatonville municipal code - stating it was out of date and not in compliance with state law. Town staff recommended adoption of ordinance number 2018-4, which repeals the juvenile curfew.
The town’s current code reads that “it is unlawful for any minor to be or remain in or upon any public street or public place as defined in [the ordinance], within the town after the hour of 1:00 a.m. on days in which there is no school, and after the hour of 11:00 p.m. on nights preceding a school day.” There are exceptions in the code, including juveniles with parents, those currently working, on an errand for a parent, in an emergency or involved in school-related activities.

That new ordinance read at last Monday’s meeting cites the Washington State Supreme Court case of the City of Sumner v. Walsh, where a curfew similar to Eatonville’s was found to be unconstitutionally vague and therefore void and unenforceable. According to the town staff report prepared by the town attorney, Gregory Jacoby, Since that case in 2003, Eatonville has made no effort to enforce the curfew in its present form, and the town has no plans to do so in the future.

In 1994 the Town of Eatonville adopted Chapter 9.37 of the Eatonville Municipal Code, otherwise known as the “Juvenile Curfew and Parental Responsibility Ordinance”. The ordinance established a curfew making it a civil infraction for parents or guardians to allow a child to violate the curfew outside of the acceptable exceptions. The ordinance gave police officers the right to stop and question anyone believing to be a minor in violation of the ordinance as well as the right to issue an infraction with monetary fines that could total hundreds of dollars for repeat offenders.
Eatonville Police Chief Brian Witt was clear in his opinion on the efficacy of the ordinance.

“I am not in the business of arresting juveniles and putting them in Remann Hall just so the parents can come and get them,” he said at the meeting, referring to the Pierce County Juvenile Court.

In town council meeting minutes dating at least back to October 2017, youth crimes have been featured repeatedly. This has other councilmembers and someresidents in favor of keeping the curfew.

Councilmember Robert Thomas questioned the ordinance being considered unconstitutional and called the move “select enforcement,” blaming the prosecutors office for denying the will of the people. He stressed his concern repeatedly against repealing the code and asked the council members to rethink maintaining a curfew, even requesting the town attorney asses the language in the law. 

“I want the curfew maintained regardless of how the law is written and want the verbiage readdressed,” he said.

Schrimpsher suggested having the public safety committee readdress the ordinance to be enforceable and legally consistent. 

Thomas ultimately asked to table the discussion, which was seconded by Councilmember Bob Walter.  

The public safety committee and town attorney will take a look at the ordinance to see if there are better solutions. 

The next public safety meeting will be held May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Eatonville Visitor Information Center