Toms River Invokes Phil Murphy Lockdown Order to Push Constitutionally Questionable Teen Curfew

6 mins read

TOMS RIVER, NJ – If you’ve been watching the news on television this week, you might have seen Mayor Maurice Hill touting the new teen beach curfew ordinance in Toms River, but what you won’t hear Hill talk about is exactly how the township was able to legally implement a curfew that threatens to put teenagers put in jail simply for enjoying summer vacation at the Jersey Shore.

Hill and the Toms River Police Department noted a series of incidents with unruly teenagers in the town’s beachfront communities on Memorial Day weekend and the threat of urban popup parties as the basis for extending a COVID-19 era state of emergency on June 13th. Those incidents were recalled by local residents during a recent meeting at town hall.

What he didn’t want the public to know was that legally, Hill and the township cited an increase in COVID-19, unmasked teenagers, and the lack of social distancing as the legal argument to lockdown the beach towns after dark at the request of frustrated local residents.

The entire population of Ocean County has been reporting an average COVID-19 caseload of about 100 new cases per day with deaths less than one per day in recent reports by the Ocean County Health Department.

Citing the 2020 Murphy lockdown executive order and Trump’s federal disaster declaration due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Toms River’s COVID-19 state of emergency was extended by Police Chief Mitch Little in his dual role of Township Emergency Management Coordinator.

No elected officials signed the order and no council vote was taken to continue the Phil Murphy COVID-19 lockdown in Toms River.

Art Gallagher, spokesman for Mayor Hill tonight said the order has the full blessing of the Mayor and several of the township council elected members.

According to the proclamation issued by Little, “The state of emergency declared pursuant to Executive Order 103 (by Governor Phil Murphy) remains in full force and effect.”

“The various executive orders issued by the Governor since March 2020 to combat the COVID-19 pandemic require individuals to limit social interactions, maintain proper social distancing, and wear face coverings,” the proclamation reads. “There is evidence in the resurgence in coronavirus resulting from a failure to observe these protocols, particularly among younger individuals.”

Little reported a ‘seven-fold’ increase in juvenile complaints in the township’s private North Beaches.

“Residents of the North Beach area reported to the police increasing problems with throngs of unruly juveniles congregating nightly in violation of the social distancing and face mask restrictions imposed by the executive order,” the proclamation reads. “If uncontrolled, can exacerbate the spread of COVID-19…these incidents warranted the imposition of a limited curfew upon juveniles.”

“It has been determined to be in the public interest to resume the curfew, with modifications to combat these problems,” Little said in the proclamation.

The proclamation was written under the direction of New Jersey Republican Assemblyman Gregory P. McGuckin, who also serves as the head of the Toms River Township legal department.

Toms River officials realize that the proclamation stands on a weak constitutional footing and if Murphy was to rescind executive order 103 tomorrow, the curfew in Toms River would also be null and void.

Gallagher today said that’s why the township is looking into alternative legal mechanisms to continue the COVID-19 public health-based lockdown long after the COVID-19 public health emergency officially ends.

“We are looking into other options for the future,” Gallagher said, to keep the teen lockdown alive in Toms River.

The new COVID-19 lockdown order is in effect from 11 pm to 5 am daily and affects only children under the age of 18, spreading COVID-19 with their unruly behavior.

A religious exemption was carved out to allow anyone performing religious duties between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am daily to be exempt from this order.

Police in Toms River have been handcuffed to police misdemeanors by teenagers. It’s a problem faced by all other police departments across the state with new directives from the Attorney General’s Office that essentially prohibit them from making arrests or filing charges against teenagers for unruly behavior, public drinking, or consumption of illegal marijuana.

Township officials know the new ordinance is largely unenforceable, but instead, it is simply meant to deter teens from behaving badly. The likelihood of a teenager being arrested for violating the curfew is minimal unless a serious crime is also occurring. A resulting lawsuit would most likely be a losing battle for township officials if it ever went that far due to the unconstitutionality of a curfew based on misleading legal pretense.

You can read the Toms River proclamation below:

Toms River – June 2022 COVID-19 Emergency Lockdown Order by Shore News Network on Scribd