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Challenge to curfew unlikely

Buffalo's youth curfew does not appear to be in legal jeopardy despite a state appellate court ruling earlier this month that declared Rochester's curfew unconstitutional.

Civil rights activists agreed with legal experts in City Hall that Buffalo addressed potential flaws in its curfew 15 years ago after critics launched a court challenge.

Last week, a divided appellate court banned Rochester from further enforcing the city's two-year-old curfew. Rochester officials are expected to appeal the decision to the state's highest court.

The curfew laws in Buffalo and Rochester are markedly different, said John A. Curr III, regional director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Rochester's curfew "criminalizes" youth, he said, while Buffalo's provision is drafted to protect not penalize -- minors.

The same issue Rochester is currently facing was addressed in Buffalo in 1993, when the Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging a new curfew. The law was revised as part of a settlement.

"We're many years ahead of the problem that we're seeing in Rochester," Curr said.

In legal terms, Rochester's curfew relies on state penal law, said Buffalo Corporation Counsel Alisa A. Lukasiewicz, while Buffalo's follows provisions spelled out in the Family Court Act.

"We're basically following procedures that are used in cases involving truancies or runaways," Lukasiewicz said.

Three Erie County judges on the five-member appellate court killed the Rochester law, with the presiding judge and a Monroe County judge dissenting.

Writing for the majority, Senior Justice Samuel L. Green of Buffalo held that the Rochester curfew barring persons younger than 16 from being out between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and midnight and 5 a.m. Friday and Saturday is "inconsistent" with state law affecting youth.

With Justices Jerome C. Gorski and Salvatore R. Martoche, also of Buffalo, concurring, Green held the Rochester curfew improperly supersedes State Penal Code and Family Court Act provisions on arrests and detention of juveniles.

Green held that in authorizing the arrests of minors under the age of 16 for curfew violations the Rochester law violates state mandates allowing the warrantless arrest and detentions of persons under 16 only in situations in which an adult could be arrested.

The appellate court ruled on an appeal of a Feb. 20, 2007 decision that upheld the Rochester curfew law. Intermediate string overflow Cannot justify line

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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