September 19, 2023
At the end of May, Denver was one of many cities that enacted a curfew due to protests and violence. Your first reaction to a curfew may be to think that you’re no longer a child, so it doesn’t apply to you – but you’d be wrong.
Even though you have rights associated with protesting, you can also face consequences for ignoring curfews in cities such as Denver. Here’s what you need to know about your rights as a protester, curfews, and the penalties that can be faced if you defy them.
Why Colorado Curfews are Enacted
Curfews, such as the one put in place in Denver by the mayor, are an attempt to curb violent protests that were resulting in vandalism in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police. They are often referred to as mandatory curfews, meant to limit your right to be out in public past a certain time.
Local and state governments have broad powers to set curfews. Your state or city can decide when a curfew should be enacted, but local governments tend to have more power during emergencies to help protect public safety through curfews.
Many protesters choose to ignore the curfew and continue participating in protests — some that turned into riots — well past the 9 p.m. curfew in Denver.
Are Curfews in Denver for Both Public and Private Property?
A mandatory curfew order is something that can only be enacted on public property. If you are on private property or your own property, you cannot be forced to go inside. You are free to be on your porch, deck, patio, driveway, or yard — even with a curfew in place.
Though you need to be aware that ordinances within the city, such as quiet hours, still apply. Violating those can lead to other charges.
What Is Included in a Mandatory Curfew in Colorado?
The curfews put in place to help counteract violence due to protests and riots are emergency curfews. The mayor has the power to take specific action due to an emergency. Curfews can include actions such as:
- Banning people from sitting, walking, biking, or standing in public spaces
- Banning those in cars from going places or parking in certain areas
- Banning businesses from operating during certain hours
- Allowing essential services to continue
- Allowing the transportation of utility emergency repairs, emergency calls by healthcare providers, and patients
- Allowing hospital services, police, and firefighters to continue operating as usual
Penalties for Breaking Curfew in Denver
Violating curfew can carry with it a variety of consequences depending on the parameters of the mandatory curfew order in question. In Denver, the mayor communicated in his order that anyone found violating the curfew could be fined up to $999.00 and could be imprisoned for up to 300 days.
Coloradans: Know Your Rights
Remember, as long as you’re not breaking curfew (or other laws), you have the right to gather in protest. According to the ACLU, you can gather in public places such as in front of government buildings, in parks, on sidewalks, and in the streets. As long as you are not blocking access or preventing business where you are located, you can be there.
You also have the right to record and photograph things in plain view in public spaces. This includes government buildings and the police themselves. Additionally, the police may not confiscate your camera or device as long as you are on public property.
Curfews come and go, but staying on top of what they mean is important if you don’t want to violate them and possibly face arrest.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.